If you have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years, you are eligible for Social Security retirement benefits. You can begin receiving reduced benefits as early as age 62. However, Social Security determines your full retirement age by your date of birth. If you delay taking benefits until you are past your full retirement age, your benefits will increase. Delaying benefits until age 70 can increase your benefits more than 30 percent.
Social Security computes your retirement benefits by using a formula that takes into account your average lifetime earnings. You will be entitled to higher benefits if you have consistent high income. If you have low or inconsistent income, your benefits will be lower. The amount of your benefits is also determined by the age you decide to start receiving benefits. You will receive a larger amount if you start benefits at a later age.
If you start receiving benefits before your full retirement age, Social Security considers you an early retiree. You can begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits when you reach age 62, but as with most retirement plans, Social Security reduces your benefits as an early retiree. Your benefit will be reduced by a fraction of a percent for each month you are under your full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 67, you will receive 70 percent of your benefits at age 62. If you wait another 12 months until age 63, you will receive a smaller reduction, or 75 percent of the full benefit.
Full Retirement Age
Your full Social Security retirement age depends on the year you were born. For those born in 1937 and earlier, the full retirement age is age 65. As of 2011, full retirement age ranges between age 65 and two months for those born in 1938, and age 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Most baby boomers were born between 1943 and 1954. If you were born during this period, your full retirement age is 66.
If you delay starting your benefits past your full retirement age, your benefits will increase. The amount of the increase depends on the year you were born and when you start your benefits. If you were born between 1941 and 1942, the increase is 7.5 percent per year. The increase is eight percent per year if you were born in 1943 or later. The increase is computed on a month-to-month basis. Therefore, if you were born in 1943 and reach your full retirement age of 66, you will receive an additional four percent for a six-month delayed retirement, or 32 percent if you waited until age 70. The increase ends when you reach age 70.
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images