Deciding when to begin receiving Social Security is a personal decision, but that decision shouldn't be made without a clear understanding of the pros and cons associated with claiming early, on time, or late. A lot goes into figuring out how much money you'll receive in Social Security every month, but if you're fast-approaching retirement, the single biggest influence on the size of your Social Security check will be when you decide to start receiving benefits.
Read on to see how much money you can expect to collect in Social Security at different ages.
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Understanding your choices
The earliest you can sign up for Social Security is age 62. However, you won't receive 100% of your benefit unless you wait until your full retirement age to sign up. Full retirement used to be age 66, but it's increasing and it's currently age 66 and 4 months. It will continue to increase by two months per year until it reaches age 67 for people born in or after 1960.
If you begin receiving Social Security benefits earlier than full retirement age, the amount of your monthly benefit will be reduced by between five-twelfths of 1% to five-ninths of 1% for every month you claim early, depending on how early you claim. If you begin receiving Social Security later than full retirement age, then your benefit will increase by two-thirds of 1% for every month you wait, up until age 70.
For example, let's assume Mary's full retirement age is 66 and four months and she was born in 1956. If Mary claims benefits at age 62, she'll receive 73 1/3% of her full retirement benefit. So if Mary's full retirement age benefit is $1,000, then she'd pocket $733.33 per month. If she waits to claim until age 70 instead, she'll receive 129 1/3% of her full retirement benefit, or $1,293.30.
Here's another example. If Jim's full retirement age is 66, Jim could've claimed benefits at age 62. If he did, then he'd currently be receiving 75% of his full retirement benefit. If he waited until age 70 to claim his benefits instead, he'd collect 132% of his full retirement benefit amount. If his full retirement benefit is $1,000 per month, then Jim's age 62 payment is $750 per month and his age 70 payment is $1,320 per month.
Making these calculations simpler
Since the amount you can get in Social Security can vary widely depending on your full retirement age and when you claim, you'll need to have a very good idea of how much more or less you'll get in benefits at different ages to make the most informed decision.
The following table makes estimating your Social Security income at ages 62 to 67, and at age 70, easier by showing you the percentage reduction or increase in benefits by full retirement age. To use this table to help calculate your benefit at different ages, find your birth year in the column on the left and then adjust your expected full retirement age benefit up or down based on the percentages listed to the right.
For instance, Mary's full retirement age is 66 years and four months, and her full retirement age benefit is $1,000, so using this table, she can quickly estimate how claiming early or late may impact her retirement income. To illustrate this point, Mary's hypothetical Social Security income is displayed in this next table.
What else should you know?
Your own specific work history determines your full retirement age benefit amount, and you can find out that figure by calling Social Security or creating an online account.
Also, if you plan on retiring at 64 years and eight months, for example, you'll have to do some additional number-crunching because the multipliers in this table only estimate your benefit at each even year, not in-between years.
Overall, everyone's situation is different, so don't base your choice on when to claim on somebody else's decision. You may have different retirement goals, financial needs, or health concerns. Plan carefully before picking when to retire and understand all your options first, so that you can make the best decision for you and your loved ones.
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