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Ask Our Retirement Expert

Have a question? Ask our Retirement expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to jbarnash@smartasset.com

Ask Our Retirement Expert

Have a question? Ask our Retirement expert.

Have questions? Email Send your question to jbarnash@smartasset.com

What Is My Full Retirement Age?

When’s the best time to retire? Should you wait until your full retirement age? Or should you leave the workplace as soon as possible so you can trek across the globe or start the business you’ve always dreamed of owning? It’s up to you. But if you’re planning to rely on Social Security benefits as a source of income, you may want to wait until you reach your normal retirement age. Let’s look at what the full retirement age is and why it matters.

Find out now: How much should I save for retirement?

Full Retirement Age: The Basics

Your full retirement age (or your normal retirement age) determines when you’re eligible for full Social Security benefits. Technically, you could begin receiving Social Security at the age of 62. But the size of your benefit check would be smaller if you began taking Social Security before reaching your normal retirement age.

If you delay taking Social Security until after you pass your normal retirement age, you’ll collect delayed retirement credits. Depending on how late you retire, those extra benefits can substantially boost the size of your monthly checks.

The full retirement age is rising. For a while, it was 65. But Congress introduced amendments in 1983 that would allow the normal retirement age to increase over time. Congressional leaders felt that a gradual adjustment of the normal retirement age was necessary to reflect the rise in life expectancies and ensure that future generations could have access to Social Security.

What’s Your Full Retirement Age?

What Is My Full Retirement Age?

Not everyone has the same full retirement age. The age at which you have access to full Social Security benefits depends on the year you were born. The day you were born could also affect your normal retirement age.

If you were born on January 1, you’ll need to use the full retirement age for the folks who were born a year before you. If you were born on the first day of any month, your normal retirement age will be the same as someone who was born the previous month. For example, if you reach your full retirement age on March 1, you’ll receive full Social Security benefits for the month of February, too.

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66. Anyone born between 1955 and 1959 has a normal retirement age of 66 and a certain number of months. For instance, if you were born in 1958, your full retirement age is 66 and eight months.

If your birth year is 1960 or a year after that, your normal retirement age is 67. You can find a complete breakdown of the full retirement age by birth year on ssa.gov.

The Full Retirement Age for Survivors Benefits

Your full retirement age may be different if you’re a widow or widower collecting survivors benefits. In fact, it may be earlier than the normal retirement age for your own Social Security benefits.

If you were born in 1956, for example, your full retirement age for Social Security benefits is 66 and four months. But your normal retirement age for survivors benefits is four months earlier (age 66).

The earliest you can begin claiming survivors benefits is 60. But much like standard Social Security benefits, you’ll receive a reduced monthly benefit amount if you want access to your survivors benefits before you reach your full retirement age.

How the Full Retirement Age Affects Social Security

What Is My Full Retirement Age?

Your full retirement age matters. After all, it determines the size of your monthly benefit check. When deciding when to take Social Security, it’s also important to factor in the age of 62, or the earliest age at which you can begin collecting benefits. For every year you avoid taking benefits between the ages of 62 and 70, your benefit amount can increase by 7% to 8%.

The full retirement age also affects the Social Security program as a whole. Americans are living longer and the working-age population is shrinking. Some have proposed raising the normal retirement age to 70, based on predictions that the Social Security reserve fund could run out of money by 2034.

Even if the reserve fund is depleted, however, future retirees should expect to get something from Social Security. Social Security beneficiaries in some states pay taxes on their benefits. Plus, the Social Security program gets funding from the interest generated by trust funds. So future retirees will likely receive around 75% of every dollar that they currently contribute to the program.

Bottom Line

Your full retirement age is the age at which you gain full Social Security benefits. That age is important, both for workers who are deciding when to claim their retirement benefits and those who are concerned about the future of Social Security.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/JohnnyGreig, ©iStock.com/aldomurillo, ©iStock.com/SilviaJansen

Amanda Dixon Amanda Dixon is a personal finance writer and editor with an expertise in taxes and banking. She studied journalism and sociology at the University of Georgia. Her work has been featured in Business Insider, AOL, Bankrate, The Huffington Post, Fox Business News, Mashable and CBS News. Born and raised in metro Atlanta, Amanda currently lives in Brooklyn.
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