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. Mary

    I am on my husband’s SS. Now that I am 70, I would like to switch to my own SS. How do I do this? I cannot access any agent on the phone. I have tried multiple times and have been told to call back because all agents are busy.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Mary, thank you for your question. You can probably file that retirement application online as long as you are not currently receiving benefits on your own Social Security record and have not already applied for retirement benefits. To check out who can apply for retirement benefits online and to get started, click HERE.

  2. Willie D.

    I will be 66 0n feb 9 2019. do I need to wait for that date or do I need to apply before to start collecting ss at age 66

  3. Sarah L.

    I’ve already submitted an application in Feb 2016. How do I now request to start receiving my SS payments?

    • Vonda V.

      Sarah, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. If you’re already receiving benefits and you now what to apply for a different benefit, you will need to call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. or contact your local Social Security office.

  4. Valerie L.

    I waited until I was 70 to receive Social Security benefits. And retired a year ago at the age of 73. I just received a notice that my benefits are being cut by $134.00 a month. When I had been expecting an 8 percent increase annually. I’m 74 now, and my benefits are my only source of income. How could this have happened, when I waited and planned so carefully? Information should not be published if it’s not true. I now will have to appeal, at a time when all of these matters should have been settled. I worked hard for about total of 50 years. And having to go through this, breaks my heart.

  5. Kamal T.

    My income is substantially less than my spouse. I am also planning to avail the social security benefits at age 64. However my spouse is going to work till 70 and file for these benefits at that time. I will obviously get whatever is due to me at 64, but I am interested in finding out if my benefit will increase, when my spouse retires at 70, since my spouse earns higher then me. Pl Advise.

    Thank you

    • Ray F.

      Hello Kamal. If a person begins to receive benefits at age 62 or prior to their full retirement age, their benefits are reduced. The reduction factors are permanently applied to all of the benefits the person may qualify for.
      You may still be eligible to collect reduced benefits on your spouse’s record when he starts collecting benefits. You would have to check with a Social Security representative at that time.
      Remember, if someone is eligible for both, his or her own benefit and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay their own first. If their spousal benefits are higher than their own retirement benefits, he or she will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit.
      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. Thanks!

  6. linda y.

    if I turn 62 in January 2019 how many hours can I work with affecting my benefits .

  7. sherry J.

    I’m past my full retirement age. ive been told i can file and get 6 months back lump sum check. how does this work and does it apply up to the age of 70.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Sherry: By delaying receiving your benefits beyond your full retirement age, you are receiving a higher benefit amount than you would have at your full retirement age. 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.

      To inquire about your benefit filing options, you can 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.

  8. jerome p.

    If I retire at age 62 and do not start collecting social security benefits, do I still have to pay into the social security system until I reach full retirement age?
    I would be collecting a pension and using my savings to live on until I reach full retirement age which for me is 66.5 years old.
    Would I have to pay into the system between 62 and 66.5 for my benefits to continue to increase to 100% or beyond?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Jerome, thank you for using our blog. A Social Security retirement benefit is calculated by using your highest 35 years of earnings. If you do not have 35 years of earnings, we will use all of the earnings on your record and factor in an annual total of $0.00 earnings for each of the remaining years.

      Social Security has an online calculator called a Retirement Estimator that provides immediate retirement benefit estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. Plus, it also allows you to create “what if” scenarios. You can, for example, change your “stop work” dates or expected future earnings to create and compare different retirement alternatives.

      See our Benefits Planner: Retirement web page for more on obtaining benefit estimates.

  9. Karen M.

    I will turn 66 in Dec. of 2019. Can I receive full benefits beginning Jan of 2019? Still work with no penalties?

  10. Jose D.

    How long do I have to wait after I apply for retirement before I get a check?

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Jose, thank you for your question. Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due. So, for instance, if your benefits begin with the month of February, you will receive your first benefit payment in March. The exact payment date is determined by your date of birth. For future pay days, you may find the Schedule of Social Security Payments calendars useful.

      Keep in mind that you can apply four months before you want your benefits to start.

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