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. Nancy W.

    I will be 62 years old on September 28, 2018. I need to take my benefits at this time. How quickly do my benefits start after I completely apply on line? I began the application and it offered an October 1 start date. Is that correct?

    • Ray F.

      Hi Nancy. You must be at least 62 for the entire month to receive benefits. In your case, the first month of eligibility is the month of October. Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if you want your benefits to begin with the month of October, you will receive your first benefit payment in November.
      Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information. Happy Retirement!

  2. Edna A.

    My mother died on August 27,2018. Her monthly SS check was in her bank account on August 31st. Should this check be returned ?

    • Ray F.

      We are very sorry for your loss, Edna. Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due. Based on your mother’s date of death, she is due the payment received in August.
      Typically, the funeral director notifies us of an individual’s passing by sending the deceased person’s death certificate to the local Social Security office. However, you may report the death of your mom’s passing by calling our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thanks!

  3. Eileen L.

    I reached retirement age in July 2017 at age 66 but didn’t start receiving benefits until May/June 2018. Can I receive the payments for the months from August 2017 to May 2018 now. I didn’t understand I could get that back pay at the time I signed up for the benefits

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Eileen, thank you for the question. By delaying receiving your benefits beyond your full retirement age, you are receiving a higher benefit amount than you would have at age 66. Your year of birth and the number of months you delay determines how much your benefit increases. See our Delayed Retirement Credits web page for details.

      We do allow up to six months of retroactivity payments, only after you have reached your full retirement age. No retroactive benefits are payable for any month before reaching your full retirement age.

      If you apply for Social Security benefits and you change your mind about when they should start, you may be able to withdraw your Social Security claim and re-apply at a future date.

      To inquire about your benefits, you will have to 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.

  4. michael

    I will be 66 nov 30th, so when should I make application for ssa benefits ?
    after 30 nov….or how many days out from that date…

    • Ray F.

      Hello Michael. Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance and you can apply for your benefits online. Remember that benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if you want your benefits to begin with the month of November, you will receive your first benefit payment in December.
      Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information. Thanks!

  5. Patricia J.

    When should I start applying for benefits under my deceased husband’s record ? I will be 60 in December 2018.

    • Ray F.

      We’re sorry we missed your question, Patricia. Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance. However, you cannot apply for survivors benefits online.
      To apply for benefits or to set up an appointment, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778). You can speak to a Social Security representative between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday. Generally, you will have a shorter wait time if you call later during the day or later in the week.
      You can also visit your local Social Security office. An appointment is not required, but if you call ahead and schedule one, it may reduce the time you spend waiting to speak to someone. Thanks!

  6. verda p.

    my husband is receiving Disability check , is he entitled to get his retirement funds. he is 66 years old. he been working in the past

    • Ray F.

      Hello Verda. Social Security disability benefits automatically change to retirement benefits when disability beneficiaries attain their full retirement age. Benefits are not interrupted with this transition and the benefit amount will generally remains the same. Thanks!

  7. Edward D.

    I turned age 65 this past March 12th, 2018. I am still working Full Time and have yet to receive Social Security benefits. I am married.
    I was thinking I need to “File and Suspend” – I have 6 months in which to do this.
    Is this correct?

    • Ray F.

      Hello Edward. If you take your retirement benefit and then ask (on or after April 30, 2016) to suspend it to earn delayed retirement credits, your spouse or dependents generally won’t be able to receive benefits on your Social Security record during the suspension. You also won’t be able to receive spouse benefits on anyone else’s record during that time.
      For more information about these changes in the law, please visit Recent Social Security Claiming Changes and our Social Security Retirement Planner. Thanks!

  8. Jerry R.

    about how many days after I apply for SS benefits do I receive my first payment. What time or times of the month do I receive my payment?

    • Ray F.

      The length of time it takes to process claim varies. We attempt to resolve all claims promptly, but there may be delays due to the volume of pending claims in your area. You may be able to check the status of your application online when using your personal my Social Security account. If you are unable to open a my Social Security account, you can still call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 to check your claim status by using our automated system using the confirmation number you received when you filed your claim. Or you can speak to one of our agents. Representatives at our toll free number are available, Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.
      Remember that Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if you want your benefits to begin with the month of June, you will receive your first benefit payment in July. See our Schedule of Social Security Payments web page for information on this subject.

  9. Wanda M.

    I will turn 62 ion November 10, 2018. How soon should I start to apply for my benefits ?

  10. Carlo I.

    How can I make an appointment to visit an office near me

Comments are closed.