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Choosing When To Retire

An Excerpt from the Social Security Administration Pamphlet; Understanding The 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 full retirement age, you will receive your full retirement benefits. But if you retire before reaching full retirement age, you will receive reduced benefits for the rest of your life.

If you work past your full retirement age, you will get full retirement benefits no matter how much you earn. If you continue working and decide not to collect your retirement benefits until you reach age 70, you will get higher benefits when you retire. If you choose not to collect retirement benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should be sure to file for Medicare when you reach age 65. If you do not, you may have to pay a higher premium when you file later.

Full Retirement Age: If you were born before 1938, you were eligible for your full Social Security benefits on your 65th birthday. In 2003, the age at which full benefits are payable began to increase gradually.

  • Note: Although the full retirement age is rising, you should still apply for medicare benefits within three months of your 65th birthday. If you wait longer, your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) may cost you more money.

Delayed Retirement: If you choose to delay receiving benefits beyond your full retirement age, you have two more options:

  1. You can work and get full retirement benefits no matter how much you earn; or
  2. You can decide not to collect your retirement benefits until age 70 and then get a higher benefit when you do retire.

Social Security benefits are increased by a certain percentage depending on the year you were born. If, for example, you were born in 1940, your benefits would increase 7 percent for each year, between your full retirement and age 70, that you do not get retirement benefits.

Early Retirement: You may start receiving benefits as early as age 62. However, if you start your benefits early, your benefits are reduced permanently. Your benefit is reduced about one half of one percent for each month you start your Social Security before your full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 65 and 6 months and you sign up for Social Security when you are 62, you would only get 77.5 percent of your full benefit.

  • Note: The reduction will be greater in future years as the full retirement age increases.

Contact your local Social Security Administration Office for all the latest updates on benefits and filing requirements.

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