A quick guide to Social Security benefits
For many of us, Social Security benefits are an important part of our retirement income, along with retirement plans and personal savings. But not all of us will get the same amount from Social Security. In fact, if you paid into Social Security and are eligible for benefits, your personal Social Security benefits will vary depending on your age at retirement, marital status, lifetime earnings history, and the year you were born.
What is your “full retirement age”?
While we often think of retirement age as 65, according to the Social Security Administration, you are entitled to full Social Security retirement benefits only when you reach somewhere between 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born:
When you reach full retirement age, you are entitled to:
- Your full core Social Security benefit
Keep working without having your Social Security benefits reduced, regardless of how much you earn
What if you want to retire sooner?
If you plan to retire before your full retirement age, you should be aware that your benefits will decrease. While Social Security will pay benefits as early as age 62, the drawbacks of taking early benefits include:
- A smaller monthly check than you’d see if you’d waited until full retirement age.
- Benefit checks that remain that smaller amount for the rest of your life, except for cost-of-living adjustments.
Reduced benefits, if you work even part-time.
Maximize your benefit by waiting longer
You can start taking Social Security benefits as late as age 70. If you decide to wait past your full retirement age, you could see a real boost in the payments you receive. In fact:
- Social Security will add a little bit to your benefit for every month you wait past your full retirement age, up to age 70.
If you continue working past your full retirement age and have a relatively high-income year or two, you could substantially increase your benefit.
When to take benefits – it’s up to you!
Before you start taking Social Security benefits, consider all of the options above, how much other income you’ll have, and how Social Security will work with your other income sources.
To find out how much to expect from Social Security, use the calculator on the Social Security Administration website.
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