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. kim M.

    If I apply for early retirement benefits in 2020 instead of waiting for my full retirement age which would be in 2023, but if I stop working and having any income since 2020, how will that affect the calculation of my estimated income at full retirement? Will it lower it by changing the indexing for the calculation?

    • Angie

      In October I will reach my full retirement age, 66. What is the process to apply for half of my husband’s Social Security? I will let mine grow until I reach 70. Do I need to come the office to apply or can it be done online?

      • Vonda V.

        Hi Angie, thank you for your question. You may be able to get spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you are eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

        However, if you were born before 1/2/1954, deemed filing rules will not apply if you wait to file at your full retirement age or later. This means that you may file for either your spouse’s benefit or your retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other. Check out our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits FAQs web page for details.

    • Shawn M.

      Hi, I believe I am eligible for Canada Pension and for Social Security. If I apply for my Canadian one now (age 62) , can I wait to apply for my US Social Security later when I am eligible for full pension?

      • Sue

        Hi, Shawn. Thank you for reading our blog and for your question. If you worked in the United States and also in another country, different rules may apply in determining if you can get your benefits. The U.S. has bilateral Social Security agreements with 30 countries, including a Totalization Agreement with Canada. You’ll want to read this carefully. These agreements improve benefit protection for workers who have divided their careers between the U.S. and another country. For more information on International Programs and Resources, visit here.

        The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) may apply to you if you receive a pension for employment where you did not pay U.S. federal payroll taxes. If you have questions about your individual claims and you are in the U.S., please call your local Social Security office. If you are outside the country, see our list of Contacts for Services outside the United States. We hope this helps.

  2. Herb

    I’m 62 and want to start drawing ss in June. My employer will pay me June 1st for May’s work. Would I be considered eligible to draw for June. The monthly salary would be over the $1582

    • Vonda V.

      Hi Herb, thank you for using our blog. After you retire, you may receive payments for work you did before you started getting Social Security benefits as in your case. These payments will not affect your Social Security benefit because they are for work done before you retired. Check out our factsheet on Special Payments after Retirement for additional details. We hope this is helpful.

  3. William l.

    My wife is on social security disability I’m 52 she is 50 we are married for 29 yrs do I get a derivative from her social security disability

    • Ann C.

      Hi, William. Thank you for your question. To qualify for spouse’s benefits, your wife must be receiving retirement or disability benefits and you must be age 62 or older. Also, if 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. For more information, visit here. We hope this helps.

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