When Is a Good Time to Start Receiving Social Security Benefits?

February 13, 2017 • By

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Last Updated: February 13, 2017

a woman gardeningEnjoying a comfortable retirement is everyone’s dream. For over 80 years, Social Security has been helping people realize those dreams, assisting people through life’s journey with a variety of benefits. It’s up to you as to when you can start retirement benefits. You could start them a little earlier or wait until your “full retirement age.” There are benefits to either decision, pun intended.

Full retirement age refers to the age when a person can receive their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to stop working to get your full benefits.

For people who attain age 62 in 2017 (i.e., those born between January 2, 1955 and January 1, 1956), full retirement age is 66 and two months. Full retirement age was age 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.

You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at

You can start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or any time after that. The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be, although it stops increasing at age 70. Your monthly benefits will be reduced permanently if you start them any time before your full retirement age. For example, if you start receiving benefits in 2017 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will be reduced permanently by about 26 percent.

On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full retirement age, then your monthly benefit will be higher. The amount of this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month –– or eight percent for each year –– that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70. The choices you make may affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you receive benefits early, it may reduce their potential benefit, as well as yours.

You need to be as informed as possible when making any decision about receiving Social Security benefits. Read the publication When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits at

If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. Social Security may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount. However, for every month benefits are withheld, it increases your future benefits. That’s because at your full retirement age Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for the months in which benefits were reduced or withheld due to your excess earnings. In effect, it’s as if you hadn’t filed for those months. You can learn more at

Social Security’s mission is to secure your today and tomorrow. Helping you make the right retirement decisions is vital. You can learn more by visiting our Retirement Planner at

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Leah

    At FRA (age 66) I started collecting SS on my deceased ex in order to let mine grow. I plan on working for 2 years (age 68) and then switch to mine. I turn 68 on 12/26/18 so I would like to switch to mine in Jan. of 2019. In order to include my wages for my last year worked in the equation, should I wait until I file my taxes for 2018 or will SSA automatically adjust my benefit after I file?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Leah. You don’t have to wait to file your income taxes. You should apply for your retirement benefits as soon as you stop working. We will re-figure your benefit and pay you any increase due. This is an automatic process. We hope this helps!

  2. Jane

    If I am receiving $2000 from SS currently, and my wife begins to receive spousal benefits at age 62 (she is not eligible for her own benefits), I know she will get about $700. If she starts receiving this at age 62, and then I die, how much will she receive for survivor benefits? Does it just switch to the higher rate?

  3. Delta j.

    When a 57 year old man remarries will he lose his current SS disability payments?

    • Ray F.

      Hi, if you get Social Security disability or retirement benefits and you marry, your benefit will stay the same. Click here to see how marriage may affect other benefits.

  4. Lee

    If you are still working at your FRA, can you collect your deceased spouses’ SS without any penalty and then switch to yours at age 70?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Lee. In many cases, a widow can restrict the scope of their application and start receiving their survivor’s benefits, while delaying their own retirement benefit and earn delayed retirement credits. As a widow, if you are also eligible for retirement benefits (but haven’t applied yet), you may apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date. The rules can vary depending on the situation. We recommend that you contact your local office or call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Keep in mind that if you were born January 2, 1955, through January 1, 1956, then your full retirement age for retirement insurance benefits is 66 and 2 months. If you work, and are full retirement age or older, you may keep all of your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

  5. aka

    I believe that the retirement age was pushed up so no one would get the pay. At 70 you won’t live long enough to enjoy retirement 62 should be the age to retire with full benefits. I believe that it is so hard on the seniors today so they have a hard time making ends meet. If someone pays in for so many years why can they not have their money? I think the whole thing is just a mess. The people that never pay into anything receive more and faster makes no sence to me. I understand disability if that person is really disabled but I see so many that are able to work somewhere and get paid.

  6. Hattie H.

    My name is Hattie H, Thompson Small and I am 84 years old. In 1994 I suffered a major stroke and since that long time I’ve tried with getting social security help, yet to no avail. I worked 30 years throughout Federal Government agencies and after suffering a stroke I could no long work. I even tried with getting a portion of my husband’s social security but was denied. I was told the amount of money I would get from him would be less than my retirement of $60.00 I receive every month, and also that I would not be allowed to get both meaning a portion of his check for me. Please let me the reason why I have not been successful with getting help? “Many thanks!” “Mrs. Small, 1660 40th Street, S.E. Washington, D.C. 20020, telephone (202) 575-4083.

  7. Maria

    I be 63 in April 2017 but do not plan to retire until after my FRA, around Dec so I would be 66 and 8 months, & get an average of 5 years of pension that is calculated using the last 5 years that I work. It would be silly for me to leave in the middle of the year and only get 4.5 years. I am also a widow since age 48. My husband never got to retire, he was 59.5 yrs old when he passed away. I have studied the SS and figure that I should take my pension at the end of Dec when I am at FRA, will I also be able to get survivor money and be able to use his SS until I turn 70 yrs old, putting mine on hold? When I turn 70 switch to my social security benefits?

    • Ray F.

      Hi Maria, thank you for using our blog to contact us. Here is more information to consider, when making the decision on “when to apply for Social Security benefits”. First, if you are the widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can receive reduced benefits as early as age 60 (age 50 if disabled). In many cases, a widow can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then, at full retirement age, switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate. Also, if you qualify for benefits as a Survivor, your full retirement age may be different. You can still work and receive some or all of your Social Security benefits. Visit our Retirement Planner: Getting Benefits While Working, and read our publication: How Work Affects Your Benefits for more information. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. If you have specific questions, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. and speak with one of our representatives. We hope this information helps!

  8. Charles R.

    There is a glaring misstatement in this blog post. As I retired former SSA claims rep, I know that applying for a retirement early may limit the potential monthly survivor benefit payable to a spouse in the future, but the OPPOSITE is true for a spouse who is currently eligible. The spouse will permanently LOSE a monthly payment for every month that the higher wage earner delays applying for retirement, and if that spouse has already reached full retirement age when the wage earner becomes eliligible for retirement, she (or he) will not receive a higher monthly benefit by delaying it. A spouse can no longer begin receive benefits before the wage earner begins receiving retirement benefits, and neither can any minor or disabled children, unless the wage earner is deceased or.disabled. That is the correct information, and hopefully it will prevent some people from losing benefits because of a badly- worded sentence on an official agency blog post.

    I should also point out that several years ago, the SSA policy manual was rewritten to prohibit SSA employees from doing a breakeven calculation or advising clients regarding which month to begin receiving benefits; employees were instructed to accept the client’s choice, even if the employee knew that choice was not necessarily the one which appeared to give the client the greatest advantage. As I stated in my book, “Get Yours! How to SUPERSIZE Your Social Security,” it was like forcing a doctor to give a patient any drug or surgical treatment they requested, just because it was the patient’s own personal choice (no matter if the doctor knew better based on training and experience.) That amounts to deliberate negligence on the part of SSA top management, as a response to the staffing pressures created by Congress, whose unreasonable budget constraints have crippled Social Security field operations to the point where they cannot afford the time to allow employees to do their job properly. They are not allowed to explain be benefit options fully because they just don’t have the time. The agency hopes that nearly everyone will learn everything they need to know online and be able to understand what is best for themselves. It’s almost like doing a Google search and then attempting to do surgery on yourself! You might get it right, but some things are best left to trained, experienced professionals.

  9. Mary

    I just learned that I am able to collect on my husbands 50 % of his benefits which is higher than mine. My husband is now 77 years old and I’m 76. Is it too late to apply for the 50 % benfits of my husbands. And if so will I get back pay from the time he retired at 65 years?

    • Lesly F.


    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Mary. Generally, we check for all other benefits that you may be eligible at the time you apply for your retirement benefits. Your benefit as a spouse can only be equal to one-half of your husband’s full retirement amount if you start receiving those benefits at your full retirement age. Also, when you qualify for Social Security benefits on your own record, we pay that amount first. But if you also qualify for a higher amount as a spouse, you’ll get a combination of benefits that equals that higher amount. We hope this provides some clarity. If you have specific questions, please call our toll free telephone number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.

    • Hope F.

      Mary, go into your local Social Security Office and talk to them

  10. Sammy

    Keep them check rolling thank ssa

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