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FAQ: Retirement Income—When Should I Take Social Security?

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For most people, waiting until age 70 yields a bigger paycheck, but it depends on your personal situation.

If you don't need money immediately to make ends meet, it's best to wait until you're 70 before you start receiving Social Security payments. Even though you can start receiving Social Security payments as early as age 62, your payment amounts will increase the longer you wait. You'll get your highest returns at age 70.

If you choose to start receiving your Social Security check before your normal retirement age, your benefit is reduced by 5/9 of 1% for each month before that age, up to 36 months. If you start more than 36 months before your normal retirement age, the benefit is further reduced by 5/12 of 1% per month.

For example, if your normal retirement age is 66 and you elect to start benefits at age 62, there are 48 months of reduced benefits. The reduction for the first 36 months is 5⁄9 of 36%, or 20%. The reduction for the remaining 12 months is 5⁄12 of 12%, or 5%. So, in this example, the total benefit reduction is 25%.

If you were born in... Your normal retirement age is...
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and two months
1939 65 and four months
1940 65 and six months
1941 65 and eight months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943 to 1954 66
1955 66 and two months
1956 66 and four months
1957 66 and six months
1958 66 and eight months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67

If you delay retirement until after your normal retirement age (prior to age 70), you typically get a credit. For example, say you were born in 1944. Your normal retirement age is 66, but you intend to take your benefits at age 68. By waiting the extra two years, you get a credit of 8% per year, which means your benefit is 16% higher than the amount you would have received at age 66.

Consider taking benefits earlier if... Consider waiting to take benefits if...
You're no longer working and really can't make ends meet without your benefits. You're still working and you make enough to impact the taxability of your benefits. (At least wait until your normal retirement age so benefits aren't further reduced due to earnings.)
You're in poor health and don't expect to make it to average life expectancy. You're in good health and expect to exceed average life expectancy.
You're the lower-earning spouse, and your higher-earning spouse can wait to file for a higher benefit. You're the higher-earning spouse and want to be sure your surviving spouse receives the highest possible benefit.

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