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When to Take Social Security Benefits

Social Security was created to provide basic retirement benefits for workers reaching age 65. Workers who pay (or have paid) Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) taxes are covered by Social Security. After paying into the system for at least 40 quarters (10 years on average), you will be eligible to receive retirement income benefits. These benefits are based on a worker’s highest earnings over a 35-year period.

Social Security Full Retirement Age

Social Security benefits can start as early as age 62 or as late as age 70, but to receive full retirement benefits depends on the year of birth. Learn more about fill retirement ages with Social Security's Benefits Planner.

Filling Early for Social Security

The retirement benefit for those who file prior to reaching full retirement age will be permanently decreased, by up to 30%. Example: if the benefit at age 67 is $1,000, and filing is done at the earliest possible age (62), the benefit would only be $700. The penalty would extend throughout retirement.

Those who file for benefits after reaching the full retirement age may receive delayed retirement credits. This equals nearly an eight percent annual increase per year by waiting up to age 70. No further increases are available past age 70.

Applying for Social Security

Applications for Social Security can be submitted 3 ways.

  1. Online through the benefits application on the Social Security website,

  2. Online through the Medicare and Social Security application, or

  3. Call 1-800-772-1213; TTY for hearing impaired 1-800-325-0778.

Social Security Penalties

There are Penalties for receiving benefits before the maximum retirement age that varies based on starting age. Below is a chart of the penalties based on the age that you begin to claim Social Security benefits.

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Age Well Planner is an educational website created by nonprofit the National Council on Aging (NCOA). We provide information, resources, and referrals on topics such as: Benefits, Income, and Medicare.

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