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. Paul

    I’m still working and will be 70 in Feb. 2018. Should I wait until Feb 2018 to claim my SS benefits to include my 2017 earnings in the final SS computation or it doesn’t matter and I should just apply for benefits 3 months in advance of my 70th birthday?

    • Ray F.

      Thank you for your question Paul. You should apply three months before you want your benefits to start. We will review your earnings record later to consider your 2017 earnings and make adjustments to your benefits if necessary. Now is a good time to create a My Social Security account to review your earnings record and get an estimate of your future benefits. Remember that when ready, you can complete the online application for your Social Security Retirement Benefits in as little as 15 minutes. Happy planning!

      • Paul

        Thanks Ray! One more question please. So, in Feb 2018 at age 70 I will start receiving benefits. My wife will attain FRA (age 66) in Apr 2018. Can she apply for benefits but restrict her claim to her spousal benefits only based on my work record and continue to build up delayed retirement credits until age 70? Note that I filed and suspended my own benefits under the rules prior to Apr 30, 2016.

        • Ray F.

          Hi Paul. The new rules specify that if you turn 62 before January 2, 2016, deemed filing rules will not apply if you file at full retirement age or later. This means that your wife may file for either spouse’s benefit or her own retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other. This option allows couples to start receiving spousal benefits at full retirement age, while letting their own retirement benefit accrue Delayed Retirement Credits. Visit our Retirement Planner: Deemed Filing – Frequently Asked Questions page for more information. We hope this helps!

          • Paul

            Excellent! Thanks Ray.

  2. jeff r.

    Thanks Mr. Fernandez – thanks for treating me like a person! God bless you –
    Jeff Record

  3. jeff r.

    I will be 62 in August of 2017 and I am considering taken my reduced benefit and doing some part time work. I understand that my reduced benefit will be reduced $1 for every $2 I work over the annual 16+k cap. – Does or is the reduction or further reduced monthly benefit amount: 1.) Recomputed each year annually based on the previous year’s earnings? b.) Is the amount of earned annual income over the cap spread out over the next 12 month until the next evaluation of income, or, are the number of annual benefit checks for any given year simply reduced to cover the “1-2” income benefit reduction?

    My concern is that if I work and my wages change from year to year I will be stuck with whatever that first reduced amount (inclusive of the reduction for excess work income) was for the rest of my life – and that this amount won’t adjust according to any annual work income.

    I sincerely hope my questions make sense. Sometimes it’s hard to even formulate the questions to ask succinctly and correctly.

    I very much appreciate the chance to have this dialogue.
    Jeff Record

    • Ray F.

      Excellent questions Jeff. First of all, you can work while you receive your Social Security retirement benefits. If you have already earned more than the yearly earnings limit for 2017, we only count your earnings from the time you start receiving your retirement benefits. We have a special rule that applies to earnings for one year, usually the first year of retirement. At age 62, if you continue to work this year, you are considered retired in any month that your earnings are $1,410 or less and you did not perform substantial services in self-employment. Beginning in 2018, the deductions will be based on the annual earnings limit. If you are under full retirement age, we’ll deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit. It is important to note that any benefits withheld while you continue to work are not “lost”. Once you reach your full retirement age, we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months in which your benefits were withheld because of your earnings. Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance. When you are ready, you can apply for your Social Security retirement benefits online. If you need further assistance, please call our toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Happy retirement!

  4. Pam

    I would like to claim on my benefits beginning at age 62 next year. My benefit is less than my spousal benefit that I cannot collect until my spouse claims his benefit which will be at age 66. Once he claims I can then add the full amount of spousal benefit over my full benefit and add that to my reduced benefit for a new total benefit that would be the highest I can receive. The information is a little confusing and I just want to confirm this is how it would work

    • Ray F.

      It seems that you’ve got it right Pam!
      – The earliest age you can apply for (your) reduced retirement benefits is 62.
      – In order for you to get spouse’s benefits, your spouse must be receiving retirement or disability benefits.
      – If you’re receiving benefits on your own record and later become eligible for a higher amount on your spouse’s record, you will then get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit.
      Please visit our “Retirement Planner: Benefits For You As A Spouse” for more information. Thanks.

  5. JOEP

    Sorry, I meant I’ll be 66 in June 2018…

  6. JOEP

    I’ll be 66 in June 2017 but I’m considering taking benefits this october. Does the earnings test begin at time of application for ssa benefits or do they look back at ytd earnings going back to January.

    • Ray F.

      Good question! The retirement earnings test applies only to individuals below full retirement age. You can still work and receive your Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. However, if you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, your Social Security benefits will be affected. If your earnings will be over the limit for the year but you will be retired for part of the year, we have a special rule that applies to earnings for that one year. For 2017 the earnings limit for those individuals under full retirement age is $16,920. This limit changes in the year you reach full retirement age. In the other hand, if you work and are full retirement age or older, the amount you make at work will not affect your Social Security benefits, no matter how much you earn. To learn more, please visit our Frequently Asked Questions web page or read our publication: “How Work Affects Your Benefits“. Our Retirement Estimator gives you future estimates of your monthly Social Security benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record. In addition, we have a variety of other calculators to help you plan for the future. Which calculator you choose depends on what you want to do. We hope this information helps. Happy planning!

  7. Virginia A.

    My husband’s was higher than mine and I got this remark I am getting 20% of his earnings and I.have to wait until I’m 66 years old to get his money . I’m getting widow’s pension along with my disability.

  8. Steven

    Is it true that FULL (not partial payment) SS retirement benefits are paid effective the beginning the month I reach FRA? I was born in the middle of the month. I applied for SS retirement benefit 3 months before my FRA birth month to take effect on my birthday. I was told I would receive a check in the following month for the “entire” month I reached FRA. Is that correct?
    Also, I was told that my Medicare Part B premium for my “entire” birth month would be taken out of my first SS check that I would receive the month following the month I reached FRA that my benefit became effective. Is that true?

  9. JOEP

    I turn 66 in June 2018. Can I start receiving my full retirement amount starting January 2018 if I earn 40k before turning 66? If so, when should I apply in order to get my first payment in January?

    • Ann C.

      Hello, Joep. You are correct. At full retirement age, one can earn $44,880 this year. Also, you can apply up to 3 months in advance for benefits. To learn more about how work affects your benefits visit our publication, How Work Affects Benefits. Thanks.

  10. Joe R.

    Question: I started collecting SS at age 66, my wife at age 62. She is now 66 can she now collect 50% of mine since 50% of mine is more than the amount she is getting?

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