When Should I Start Taking Social Security Benefits?

As you approach retirement, you must decide when to begin taking your Social Security benefits. You have three options: You may begin taking benefits between age 62 and your full retirement age, you can wait until your full retirement age, or you can delay benefits and take them anytime up until you reach age 70.

More than two-thirds of people take their benefits early. Some of them don't have a choice -- they need the money right away. But for others, it might make more sense to delay benefits, even past their full retirement age. Ultimately it is a personal decision that depends on whether you plan to keep working, your health and life expectancy, your spouse's needs, and the availability of other retirement plans.

If you were born before 1937, your full retirement age was 65. For those born after 1937, the retirement age gradually increases until it reaches age 67 for people born in 1960 or later. If you take Social Security between age 62 and your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced to account for the longer period you will be paid. If you delay taking retirement, depending on when you were born, your benefit will increase by 6 to 8 percent for every year that you delay, in addition to any cost-of-living increases.

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