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When to Apply for Social Security Retirement Benefits

With more than 70 million people receiving Social Security Retirement benefits in 2022, it is time to think about yours too. But with so many factors to consider, how do you determine when to apply for social security? Knowing and planning when to start is a retirement strategy and it means giving yourself a more financially secure and comfortable retirement.

While most people are aware of the concept of delaying benefits for a higher payout, the decision to implement this strategy will have to depend on your circumstances and priorities. Professional guidance can assist you in making well-informed decisions based on your unique situations.

In this article, we’ll walk you through the requirements, the factors that affect your benefits, and insights that will help you plan out your retirement benefits. 

Early Retirement Age

If you’re considering retiring early, you have to know its requirements and implications of the early retirement age. The early retirement age refers to the age at which you can start receiving Social Security retirement benefits before reaching the full retirement age. 

Currently, the full retirement age is 66 years and 2 months for those born in 1955. However, you can choose to retire as early as 62 years old.

Choosing early retirement comes with some consequences. One of the main implications is a reduction in your monthly benefit amount. If you start receiving benefits at 62, your monthly payment will be permanently reduced by a certain percentage, depending on the number of months before your full retirement age. This reduction can be as much as 30%.

It also has an impact on your overall retirement income. Starting your benefits early means you’ll receive payments for a longer period of time, but the reduced monthly amount may not be enough to cover all your expenses. So, evaluate your financial situation then determine if early retirement is feasible for you.

Keep in mind that the decision to retire early is irreversible. Once you start receiving benefits, you can’t change your mind and increase your monthly payment amount. Therefore, carefully consider your options and make an informed decision about when to retire.

Full Retirement Age

The full retirement age is the age at which you can receive Social Security retirement benefits without any reduction in your monthly payment amount. It’s an important milestone to consider when planning for your retirement.

Currently, the full retirement age varies depending on the year you were born. For those born in 1937 or earlier, the full retirement age is 65 while for those born between 1938 and 1959, the full retirement age gradually increases by two months for each year. For example, if you were born in 1955, your full retirement age would be 66 years and two months.

For those born in 1960 or later, the full retirement age is 67. If you delay receiving benefits past your full retirement age, your monthly payment amount may be increased. This is known as delayed retirement credits.

Knowing your full retirement age helps in determining when to apply for Social Security retirement benefits. It allows you to make informed decisions about when to start receiving benefits and how it may impact your monthly payment amount.

Delayed Retirement Credits

As mentioned, in order to increase your monthly Social Security retirement benefits, you can consider delaying the start of your payments beyond your full retirement age. By doing so, you can earn delayed retirement credits. Delayed retirement credits are essentially a reward for postponing your benefits and can significantly boost your monthly payments.

For every year you delay receiving Social Security benefits after reaching your full retirement age, your benefit amount increases by a certain percentage. Currently, the increase is 8% per year. This means that if your full retirement age is 66 and you delay your benefits until age 70, you’d receive an additional 32% in monthly benefits.

The decision to delay your benefits and earn delayed retirement credits should be carefully considered. It can be a good strategy if you have enough financial resources to support yourself during the delay period and if you expect to live a long and healthy life. 

Yet if you need the income sooner or have a shorter life expectancy, it might be more beneficial to start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. Keep in mind that delayed retirement credits stop accruing once you reach age 70. So, there’s no additional benefit to waiting beyond that age. 

Factors Affecting Benefits

When considering factors that impact your Social Security retirement benefits, your age and earnings history play a role in calculating your monthly payments.

Age is an essential factor when it comes to Social Security benefits. The age at which you choose to start receiving benefits can greatly affect the amount you receive each month. If you decide to receive benefits before reaching your full retirement age, your monthly payments will be permanently reduced. If you delay receiving benefits past your full retirement age, you may be eligible for delayed retirement credits, which can increase your monthly payments.

Another significant factor is your earnings history. The amount of money you earned throughout your working years affects the size of your Social Security benefits. Your average indexed monthly earnings, or AIME, is used to calculate your benefit amount. The higher your AIME, the higher your monthly payments will be.

Choosing the Right Time to Apply

Carefully consider your financial situation and long-term retirement plans when deciding when to apply for Social Security benefits. If you need the income and are unable to continue working, applying as soon as you’re eligible may be the right choice for you while if you can afford to delay applying, it may be beneficial to do so in order to receive a higher monthly benefit.

Ultimately, the decision of when to apply for Social Security retirement benefits is a personal one. There are trade-offs to weigh and your choice will impact your overall financial well-being throughout retirement.


If you’re wondering when to apply for social security retirement benefits, consider your early retirement age, full retirement age, and delayed retirement credits. Factors like your financial situation, health, and future plans also play a role in deciding the right time to apply.

As you evaluate all these factors, you will be able to make an informed decision and maximize your social security retirement benefits.

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