Each year, many Americans make the decision to receive Social Security benefits early — at age 62. It’s a choice that comes with both benefits and drawbacks. If you’re considering it yourself, it’s important to consider all the potential results.
What happens when you accept Social Security at age 62
In short, you’ll get to start enjoying your benefits a few years sooner. But you’ll receive up to 30% less each month than you would if you waited till your full retirement age.
Here are some examples of how this choice would affect your benefits — assuming your normal monthly benefit would be $1,000 at your full retirement age.
Birth Year Full Retirement Age Benefit
1955 66 years, 2 months $741
1956 66 years, 4 months $733
1957 66 years, 6 months $725
1958 66 years, 8 months $716
1959 66 years, 10 months $708
1960 or later 67 years $700
Your benefit is based on the number of years you’ve worked, and the amount of money you’ve earned in your 35 years of highest earnings. If you earned little to no money during some years (for instance, if you left the workforce to care for children), it may be beneficial to work longer.
Considerations when making your choice
How much you expect to receive Estimate your benefits here
You can also sign up to receive regular statements showing estimates for disability, or for your survivors.
Think about your longevity
If you have good health habits, you may expect to live a longer, healthier life. If you live longer than your "break-even age," the total value of your retirement benefits taken at full retirement age will begin to be greater than the value of reduced benefits taken at age 62. You'll generally reach your break-even age about 12 years from your full retirement age. (So if your full retirement age is 66, you’ll reach this point at age 78.)
Your needed income
Start by estimating your retirement expenses. Will your home be paid off? Do you plan to travel regularly? Will you be paying expenses for a child in college, or helping to financial support grandchildren or your own parents? Will you have other investments to sustain you? Are you considering moving? Do you hope to spend time volunteering?
If your total need appears to be substantially greater than your estimated benefits, you may want to work longer.
How your spouse may be affected
Receiving benefits early could affect the amount of lifetime income both you and your spouse receive — and could affect the benefit provided to the surviving spouse, so consider the effects on your joint retirement plan as well.
Whether you’ll continue working
You have the option to keep working after you start Social Security benefits at age 62 — and your earnings will affect how much you receive from Social Security each month as well. So discuss these options and be sure you understand the impact on your benefits.
For further details, visit the Social Security Administration online or call (800) 772-1213 to speak with a representative. You can also stop by your local Social Security office.