Do you know your full Social Security retirement age? Most don't
When you're 65, you still probably won't qualify for full Social Security benefits. If you didn't know that, you're not alone. Most workers don't. Only 19 percent of workers over age 25 correctly identify when they can get a full monthly Social Security check, according to a recent survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute and Mathew Greenwald & Co. The rest guess too early (49 percent), too late (8 percent), or admit they don't know (22 percent) or think they're not eligible (2 percent).
So, here's a little help. If you were born in 1937 or earlier, you qualified for full Social Security benefits at 65. But anyone born after 1937 (in other words, anyone who turns 69 or less this year) can't collect full benefits at 65. The required age for full benefits gradually increases for those born from 1938 through 1942. For example, someone born in 1940 becomes eligible at 65 years, 6 months. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, you can claim full benefits at 66. Then, for those born from 1955 through 1959, the full retirement age again increases in increments. As the rules currently stand, if you were born in 1960 or later, you are eligible for full Social Security benefits at age 67.
Granted, you don't have to wait until your designated age to begin collecting Social Security. You can start at age 62 regardless of your birth year. However, if you cash in before your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced. The advantage of retiring earlier, of course, is that you collect benefits for a longer time. The disadvantage is that your monthly benefit is permanently reduced. For example, persons born in 1945 will have their benefits trimmed by 0.52 percent for each month prior to their full retirement age of 66 that they begin collecting benefits.
Conversely, you can boost your Social Security benefits by waiting longer to begin collecting them, up to age 70. The yearly rate of increase depends on which year you were born. For people born from 1937 through 1942, the rate gradually increases from 6.5 percent to 7.5 percent for each year you delay taking benefits. If you were born in 1943 or later, your Social Security check will grow by 8 percent for each year you delay. Holding off on claiming retirement benefits beyond age 70 does not result in any additional increase in your monthly check.
You can find your full retirement age at www.ssa.gov.