How Old Do You Have to Be to Get Social Security Benefits?

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You must be at least age 62 to collect Social Security retirement benefits, but you can receive more each month by waiting longer. Social Security reduces your monthly payment if you claim benefits before the normal retirement age. If you plan to collect on your own work record, you can receive more each month by postponing your claim until age 70.

Full Retirement Age

Your normal retirement age, also called full retirement age, is the earliest age when you can claim full Social Security retirement benefits or spousal benefits without any reduction.

The full retirement age for people born between 1943 and 1954 is 66. Social Security increases the full retirement age by two months each year for those born between 1955 and 1959. For example, the FRA for someone born in 1959 is 66 years and 10 months. Anyone born in 1960 or later has a full retirement age of 67.

Retiring at the Earliest Age

If you have a FRA of 66 and claim retirement benefits on your own record at 62, Social Security will reduce your benefits by 25 percent. Social Security uses a larger percentage of reduction for people born in 1955 and later. The percentage increases gradually for birth years between 1955 and 1960, reaching a maximum of 30 percent for those born in 1960 or later who retire at 62.

Claiming spousal benefits at full retirement age entitles you to 50 percent of your husband or wife's full benefit. If you have a FRA of 66 and take spousal benefits at 62, you'll receive only 35 percent of your spouse's benefit.

From 62 to Full Retirement Age

Social Security also will reduce your benefits if you retire at some point between age 62 and full retirement age. The closer you are to full retirement age, the more you'll get. For example, if your full retirement age is 66 and you retire at age 65, you'll receive 93.3 percent of your full retirement benefit.

If you're claiming spousal benefits and your full retirement age is 66, you'll collect 37.5 percent of your spouse's full benefit at age 63. If you wait until age 65 to collect, you'll get 45.8 percent.

Delayed Retirement

If you postpone taking retirement benefits on your own record after full retirement age, Social Security increases your benefits by a set percentage for every year you wait, up to age 70. After age 70, there's no increase and no advantage to waiting for benefits. For people born in 1943 or later, the increase is 8 percent per year or 2/3 of 1 percent for every month of delay in taking benefits.

You get the maximum spousal benefit at age 66, so there's no point in delaying your claim beyond that date.

Working While Drawing Retirement Benefits

You can continue working while you receive Social Security retirement benefits. If you haven't reached full retirement age, the government will reduce your benefits by $1 for every $2 of your earnings beyond an earnings limit, which is $15,720 as of 2015. The same rules apply to working while receiving spousal benefits. More lenient rules apply in the year you reach FRA, and you can earn any amount with no reduction starting with the month of your full retirement birthday.

If you're collecting on your own work record, you'll receive higher benefits at full retirement age to make up for the reduction. However, you won't receive any such increase for spousal benefits.