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A Guide to Knowing Your ‘Full Retirement Age’ for Social Security

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Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.

The age 65 has always carried big significance. For baby boomers and those from earlier generations, age 65 was a target. It was the unofficial age for retirement.

But we need to adjust our thinking when it comes to that number.

Today, many people who turn 65 are still working and, thanks to improved life expectancy statistics, can look forward to 20 more years of good life and relatively good health.

In 2023, the age 65 has only one official designation; It’s when American citizens are required to sign up for Medicare. Otherwise, 65 means nothing in particular.

And that includes Social Security.

Age and Social Security

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Social Security does not care when you turn 65 years old.

It does care how old you are when you begin to accept Social Security benefits, because that sets the amount you will receive monthly until you die.

The longer you delay taking Social Security benefits, the more you will receive in monthly benefits until you pass away, up to age 70, when the increases stop.

Ages That Matter to Social Security

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There are certain ages that DO matter to Social Security, and here they are.

When You Turn 62

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That is when you can first claim Social Security benefits, unless you have a health factor that would allow you to receive benefits at an earlier age.

NOTE: You do not need to be “retired” to receive Social Security benefits, but up until your full retirement age, your monthly benefit amount can be reduced if you make more than $1,580 a month from a job. Once you reach full retirement age, you can earn as much as you want in addition to your benefits.

More details on working and collecting Social Security benefits.

When You Are 66 to 67

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If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66.

If you were born from 1955 to 1960, your full retirement age increases gradually up to age 67.

Anyone born since 1961 has a full retirement age of 67.

When You Turn 70

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This is the age when your monthly Social Security benefits stop increasing, unless there is a cost of living adjustment.

Full Retirement Age for Social Security

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Here’s a quick breakdown by birth year, full retirement age and the number of months between 62 and full retirement age:

  • 1943-1954: 66, 48
  • 1955: 66 and 2 months, 50
  • 1956: 66 and 4 months, 52
  • 1957: 66 and 6 months, 54
  • 1958: 66 and 8 months, 56
  • 1959: 66 and 10 months, 58
  • 1960 and later: 67, 60

What Is ‘Full Retirement Age’?

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In the original Social Security Act of 1935, the “full retirement age” was 65 years old. But, improvements in life expectancy caused the Social Security Administration to increase the age of “full retirement” over time.

Today, the SSA has set the age of 67 as “full retirement age” for anyone born after 1960. But “full retirement age” does not mean anything when it comes to determining or maximizing your Social Security benefits. In fact, “full retirement age” does not mean anything.

Your monthly benefit increases for every month you do not accept Social Security benefits, up to age 70. The longer you wait, the more you are paid each month up to age 70. After you reach age 70, your monthly benefits do not increase unless there is a cost-of-living adjustment to the benefit schedule.

So what does “full retirement age” mean? Effectively, nothing.

According to the Social Security Administration, the average Social Security benefit check as of February 2023 is $1,830.66. The maximum allowable monthly Social Security benefit payment is $4,555.

The amount is determined by how many years a person contributed to the Social Security program through their paychecks from work, and at what age they decided to start accepting benefits.

So, Why Do I Care When I Turn 65?

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When you turn 65, you are eligible for Medicare, which matters if you are concerned about health care costs.

In the United States of America, there is absolutely no way to ignore the fact that you are about to turn 65 years old, because Medicare won’t let you.

Six months prior to turning 65, you begin to receive mailings from private insurance companies offering you so-called “Medigap” policies which will cover the costs not covered by the standard Medicare Parts A and B — called Original Medicare — provided by the federal government.

It is estimated that one out of every three Medicare recipients utilize a Medigap policy to defray medical care costs.

To confuse people even more about whether Social Security cares that you are turning 65, you must go to the Social Security website, ssa.gov, to sign up initially for Medicare. Your official information from Medicare will come in the mail from the Social Security department of the federal government.

Otherwise, the main reason to anticipate turning 65 is that you are likely to pay less for food at all of the restaurant chains in America that offer discounts to “senior citizens.”

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) About Full Retirement Age

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There are a lot of questions about the full retirement age and what benefits might come your way when you reach it. We’ve rounded up answers to the most commonly asked questions.

How Do I Find Out My Full Retirement Age?

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Your full retirement age is based on the year you were born. If you were born in 1960 or thereafter, your full retirement age is 67.

The Social Security Administration has updated information on benefits and age requirements.

What Age Is Full Retirement Age?

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Your full retirement age is based on the year you were born. If you were born in 1960 or thereafter, your full retirement age is 67.

The Social Security Administration has updated information on benefits and age requirements.

Is It Better To Start Collecting Social Security at 66 or 70?

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This is the question for the ages and is a very individual question. The longer you wait to collect Social Security, the higher your monthly benefit will be until you reach age 70, when increases stop (unless there is a cost of living increase).

If you do not need the money at age 66, and you think you will live long enough to make up the difference between receiving checks at age 66 versus age 70, then it is best to wait.

However, if you are married and your spouse made more money than you did during their lifetime, it is best for you to take your Social Security whenever it suits you and let your spouse wait for later.

This story will help you determine who should take Social Security first. Again, life expectancy issues play a role for each individual.

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