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Full Retirement Age Defined and Explained


Your full retirement age is the point at which you’re able to earn the full amount of benefits that you’ve earned throughout your career, according to the Social Security Administration (SSA). However, that doesn’t mean it’s the age at which you can receive your maximum benefit.  Determining the best time for you to begin receiving Social Security benefits has become a more complex endeavor in recent decades. Technically, you can elect for these benefits as soon as you reach age 62, or you could wait all the way until you’re 70. If you want help planning for retirement, consider working with a financial advisor.

Full Retirement Age: Figuring Out Yours

Your full retirement age is the age at which you can claim the full benefits you have accrued throughout your working years. Though you can technically retire and start claiming Social Security payments at age 62, retiring at that point won’t give you access to your full retirement benefits. Your full retirement age is determined based on the when you were born, explained in detail below.

For the first several decades of the Social Security program, everyone had the same full retirement age: 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 full retirement age was necessary to ensure that there was enough money to keep Social Security from facing insolvency.

The result is that not everyone has the same full retirement age (FRA). The age at which you gain access to full Social Security benefits depends on the year you were born. If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your FRA is 66.  If your birth year is 1960 or after, your normal retirement age is 67. Anyone born between 1955 and 1959 has a normal retirement age between 66 and 67 – that is, 66 plus a certain number of months. For instance, if you were born in 1958, your FRA is 66 and eight months.

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

Here’s a complete breakdown of the FRA by birth year.

Full Retirement Age

Birth YearFull Retirement Age
1943-195466 years old
195566 and two months
195666 and four months
195766 and six months
195866 and eight months
195966 and 10 months
1960 and later67 years old

Full Retirement Age and Your Benefit

Senior couple who have retired at full retirement age

The SSA has a set formula to calculate the amount of your monthly benefit check, also known as your primary insurance amount (PIA). The formula is somewhat convoluted, but it factors in your 35 highest years of earnings, each of which are indexed for inflation.

Your FRA determines when you’re eligible to receive your PIA. So if you elect for benefits any time before your FRA, you’ll receive a lower monthly benefit. If you wait until after your FRA to elect, you’ll receive a higher benefit. For every month you wait from the age of 62 until your FRA, your monthly benefit will increase incrementally. For instance, if you were born in 1960 or after, you can receive 86.1% of your benefits at age 64 and 11 months. You can collect 92.2% of your benefits once you hit 65 and 10 months.

What may be confusing to some people is that the amount you receive at your FRA is not actually your maximum possible benefit. You can continue to delay electing for benefits past your FRA and your benefit amount will continue to increase. Once you reach age 70, your benefit amount will max out.

But even if it’s not the age of your maximum benefit, your FRA has other relevance. If you’re working and receiving Social Security before hitting your FRA, the SSA may deduct some money from your benefit amount.

For the 2023 tax year, your benefit will be reduced by $1 for every $2 you earn above the earnings limit of $21,240.

In the year in which you reach FRA you may earn up to $56,520 for the 2023 tax year (up from the 2022 amount of $51,960), without losing benefits. Earn more than that during the months before you reach FRA and Social Security will dock you $1 for every $3 you earn. As soon as you reach FRA you can earn as much as you’d like without being penalized.

How the Full Retirement Age Affects Social Security

FRA 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 FRA to 70, based on predictions that the Social Security reserve fund could start running out of money by 2037.

Even if the reserve fund is depleted, however, future retirees should expect to get something from Social Security. Social Security income is taxable, which generates revenue. 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.

Full Retirement Age for Survivors Benefits

Elderly woman opening an empty purse

Your FRA 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 FRA is 66 and four months. But survivors may begin receiving benefits four months earlier, at  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 FRA.

Bottom Line

Your FRA 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.

Tips for Planning for Retirement

  • A financial advisor can help you figure out how Social Security fits with other income sources in your retirement plan. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have free introductory calls with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Don’t forget to factor Social Security benefits into your savings total. Use SmartAsset’s Social Security calculator to determine how much you’ll receive.

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