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. Candy

    My husband retired at 62 in 2012 and received 3 months retroactive pay. I work and receive reduced social security that started in February of 2019 will I receive retroactive pay for filing 3 months prior.

  2. John L.

    I am planning on retiring June the day of my birthdate how will i be penalized because i am not retiring at age 66?

    • Vonda V.

      Thank you for your question, John. To compute the effect on your benefit amount if you file for early retirement, check out our Early or Late Retirement Calculator.

  3. William j.

    may i change the 2 months that you withhold a payment to pay my estimated taxes?

  4. Jeanne G.

    I’ve been trying to get a copy of my1099 for 2018 and I don’t understand how it can be so difficult. I’m 88 and don’t remember if I set up an account or not – and how in hell can I remember what street I lived on in 3rdgrade or my first friend. Ridiculous.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Jeanne. We are sorry that you are having difficulties creating a my Social Security account.

      For assistance with your account and to request a replacement SSA-1099, you may call us at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. At the voice prompt, say “helpdesk”; or contact your local Social Security office.

  5. Bernie T.

    Can a person with 40 quarters of work (SSA benefits eligible), stop working at age 59 years old and apply for retirement at age 62 received the same reduced benefits?
    Basically, I’m asking if I can get the estimated amount in my SS statement if I stop working and do not apply for benefits until I reach the minimum age requirement?

  6. Andrew

    I am going to be 66 In May. Can I apply for my SSN now or should I wait until May. Or apply now and hold it until May?

  7. Barbara E.

    I retired last August 2018; I expected to receive my first Social Security payment this week, Wednesday, January 9, 2019. I did not receive it.
    I also don’t understand how people I know that retired in the middle of the year received their Social Security payment the following month but I was told by SSA that since I worked half of 2018 I was not eligible. Please explain this to me. Thank you.

  8. Clifford C.

    Can my wife apply for spousal benefits now that I have begun receiving my SSA benefits? She applied for her benefits early when she was age 62.

    • Vonda V.

      Hello Clifford. We will always pay your wife’s own retirement benefit first. If benefits as a spouse are higher than her own retirement benefits, she will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. However, the spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of your full retirement amount. So, she can only receive additional spouse’s benefits if her own full retirement benefit (not a reduced benefit) is less than half of your full retirement benefit.

      Generally, during the initial interview when you applied for Social Security benefits, we typically explore all other benefits. To find out if she is eligible for a higher benefit amount, she can call us at 1-800-772-1213 between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday or contact her local Social security office. Thanks!

  9. donald a.

    I am confused will you help me? I turned 64 12/01/2018
    I want to think about going part time and earning the amount I can make and still draw maxium amount
    how much can I make per year ? also if I work till march or april 2019 and set up drawing in may will the money I made from jan to april effect my maxium year amount I could make with out being penialized?

  10. Bill S.

    Okay, but, nowhere do I find what the time from application to start of benefits is. I received a letter from SSA stating to apply “right away” but when I go online it states I’m 69 and will receive a reduced benefit. Is this a method for the SSA to reduce their costs? Or, does it take five months between application and start of benefits? Are the benefits calculated from application date, SSA processing date, or date of first benefit? That is the question.

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Bill, thank you for your question. Generally, you should apply for retirement benefits four months before you want your benefits to begin. Keep in mind that 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.

      Your benefit percentage is based on your full retirement age. If you delay filing, your retirement benefits will increase a fraction of a percent for each month after you reach full retirement age that you do not claim them until you reach age 70 due to delayed retirement credits. There is no incentive to delay claiming after age 70.

      Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information.

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