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What’s your full retirement age?

You can retire as early as age 62 and receive Social Security benefits. But if you wait, you could get a larger check.

If you’re gearing up to walk away from the workforce, you’ll need to know your full retirement age. In April 2021, 48 out of 62 million people who received Social Security were aged 65 or older. But age 65 isn’t the full retirement age for everyone. And for some Americans, retiring early could mean less money in retirement.

What is the full retirement age?

Full retirement age is the age that you can start receiving or drawing from your retirement accounts. But many refer to full retirement age specifically to when they can claim unreduced Social Security benefits.

In 1983, the Social Security Administration gradually increased the full retirement age for Social Security benefits from 65 to 67. Here’s your full retirement age based on your birth year.

Birth yearFull retirement age
1943-195466
195566 and 2 months
195666 and 4 months
195766 and 6 months
195866 and 8 months
195966 and 10 months
1960 and later67

If you were born on January 1, your benefits are based on the previous year.

How your retirement age affects your Social Security

It’s possible to retire and start collecting your Social Security payments at 62. But if you retire before your full retirement age, your benefits are permanently reduced. Here’s how much you might lose if you file for Social Security benefits early at age 62.

Birth yearFull retirement agePercent loss in benefit amount
1943-19546625%
195566 and 2 months25.83%
195666 and 4 months26.67%
195766 and 6 months27.5%
195866 and 8 months28.33%
195966 and 10 months29.17%
1960 and later6730%

Fortunately, you’ll forfeit less of your Social Security payment amount every month you inch closer to your full retirement age. For example, here’s a quick glimpse of your benefits reduction if you’re born in 1960 or later and retire between age 62 and your full retirement age of 67.

Early filing agePercentage loss in benefit amount
6230%
6325%
6420%
6513.9%
666.7%
670%

If you claim Social Security benefits early and continue to work, your earned income can reduce your payment. This is known as the Earnings Test.

Essentially, for every two dollars that you make over a specific threshold ($18,960 in 2021), one dollar of your benefit will be withheld. The withholding rate is a bit kinder if you’re reaching your full retirement age that year.

To find out how your earnings can affect your monthly benefit, use the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Earnings Test Calculator.

Once you reach your full retirement age, you’re exempt from the Retirement Earnings Test.

What happens if you work after the full retirement age?

If you delay retirement and postpone claiming Social Security, you stand to increase your benefits every month until age 70. For those born in 1960 or later, here’s how much you could boost your monthly benefit.

Delayed benefit filing agePercent increase in benefit amount
670%
688%
6916%
7024%

Do you get more in Social Security by retiring early or delaying retirement?

Arguments can be made that if you retire early at age 62, you get more Social Security payments than if you delay retirement to age 70 — even with the reduced monthly benefit. While many factors go into how much Social Security will pay out in your lifetime, here’s how the math could play out.

Let’s say you’re entitled to a monthly retirement benefit of $1,000. If you were born in 1960 or later and retire at 62, your retirement benefit would be reduced to $700 — a reduction of 30%. If you continue to collect Social Security until the average life expectancy of age 78, you’d receive a total of 192 monthly payments or $134,400 (192 x $700).

On the other hand, if you delay retirement benefits until 70, your payment could increase to $1,240 — an increase of 24%. If you secure payments until age 78, you’d get a total of 96 monthly benefits or $119,040 (96 x $1,240).

While retiring early cuts your monthly payment in this situation, you’ll receive more money over time.

How to factor Social Security into retirement planning

Social Security is generally designed only to replace about 40% of your pre-retirement earnings. Many people supplement their retirement plan with other income sources, including individual retirement accounts (IRA) and 401(k)s. So when considering when to retire, your Social Security full retirement age should only be one factor.

Other considerations include when you become eligible to receive payments from your other retirement earnings without penalty, whether you can afford to retire early and your personal circumstances that may delay walking away from your job.

Take distributions from your retirement plan, including IRAs, 401(k)s and pension plans, without incurring the 10% early withdrawal tax if you’re age 59 1/2. Keep in mind that the withdrawal is subject to income tax, which is unavoidable unless you have a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) account.

You may also face an additional 25% tax if you withdraw from a SIMPLE IRA within the first two years of joining the plan. So you might consider postponing retirement — even if you’re 59 1/2 — to avoid this extra penalty.

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Bottom line

Your full retirement age is when you’re entitled to receive full Social Security benefits. You might be able to retire earlier, but your monthly check will be smaller. Since Social Security is likely only a portion of your retirement income, consider other retirement plans to help supplement your retirement cash flow.

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