Social Security Retirement Benefits

Choosing when to retire is one of the most important decisions you will make in your lifetime.  If you choose to retire when you reach your full retirement age, you will receive your full benefit amount.  But if you retire before reaching full retirement age, you will receive reduced benefits.

Year of Birth Full Retirement Age
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or later 67


Delayed Retirement

 If you choose to delay receiving benefits beyond your full retirement age, your benefit will be increased by a certain percentage, depending on the year you were born.  The increase will be added in automatically each month from the time you reach full retirement age until you start taking benefits or reach age 70, whichever comes first.  The percentage of the increase is based on when you were born.

Early Retirement

You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62.  However, if you start your benefits early, your benefits are reduced by about ½ of 1 percent for each month you start your Social Security before your full retirement age.  For example, if you full retirement age is 66 and you sign up for Social Security when you are 62, you would only get 75 percent of your full benefit.

If you work and get benefits

You can continue to work and still receive retirement benefits. Your earnings in (or after) the month you reach full retirement age will not reduce your Social Security benefits. In fact, working beyond full retirement age can increase your benefits. However, your benefits will be reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits for the months before you reach your full retirement age.

If you work but start receiving benefits before full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 in earnings you have above the annual limit. In 2014, the limit is $15,480.

In the year you reach your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 you earn over a different annual limit ($41,400 in 2014) until the month you reach full retirement age.  Once you reach full retirement age, you can keep working, and your Social Security benefit will not be reduced, no matter how much you earn.

NOTE: People who work and receive disability or Supplemental Security Income payments have different earnings rules. They must immediately report all of their earnings to Social Security no matter how much they earn.

Retirement benefits for widows and widowers

If you are receiving widow’s or widower’s benefits, you can switch to your own retirement benefits as early as age 62, assuming your retirement benefit is more than the amount you receive on your deceased spouse’s earnings. In many cases, you can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and then switch to the other benefit at the full rate when you reach full retirement age. The rules are complicated and vary depending on your situation, so talk to a Social Security representative about the options available to you.

Average 2014 monthly Social Security benefits

  • Retired Worker: $1,294
  • Retired Couple: $2,111
  • Disabled Worker: $1,148
  • Disabled Worker with a Spouse and Child: $1,943
  • Widow or widower: $1,243
  • Young Widow or Widower with Two Children: $2,622

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