Your retirement age is the age at which you retire, right? Once you're ready to retire, you collect your Social Security benefits and enjoy the rest of your days, right?
Well, it's a bit more complicated than that. There's when you can start collecting Social Security benefits, and then there's your full retirement age — and understanding how your age affects your benefits can help you lay out a strategy as you approach retirement.
What Is the Full Retirement Age?
The Social Security Administration lets you start claiming benefits as soon as you turn 62. However, if you start collecting benefits at this age, you won't get your full benefit amount. To get that, you have to wait until you reach your full retirement age.
Your full retirement age is the age at which you're eligible to claim full Social Security benefits. Waiting until your full retirement age guarantees you 100% of what you're entitled to as calculated by the Social Security Administration. Start collecting before then, and your benefits are reduced.
If you delay collecting benefits until past your retirement age, you'll receive an even higher monthly payout. The Social Security Administration lets you hold off on claiming your benefits until you turn 70, and your benefits increase by a certain percentage each month beyond full retirement age. Once you hit 70, though, you must start claiming your Social Security benefits.
How Do I Figure Out My Full Retirement Age?
Your full retirement age depends on when you were born.
For example, if you were born in 1959, you'll hit your full retirement age when you turn 66 years and 10 months old. If you claimed your benefits the day you hit 62, you'd only receive 70.8% of your full benefit each month. If you waited another full year, you'd get bumped up to 80% of your benefit amount every month. The percentage rises a little bit every month and hits 100% when you reach your full retirement age. You can get a month-by-month breakdown of how much your benefit is reduced if you claim early by entering your birth year into the Social Security Administration's retirement age calculator.
On the other hand, for every month you wait past your full retirement age, you'll get a slight increase in your monthly benefit, up to 8% each year. If you wait a full year past retirement age to claim, you'll get 108% of your full benefit every month. Delaying your benefits is one way to maximize your retirement income.
How Your Full Retirement Age Affects Your Retirement Decisions
Depending on your financial situation, you'll want to find the best approach for your needs.
You might want to retire early, and because you've been planning on it, you've set aside significant retirement savings. In this case, you might not need to rely on your Social Security benefits to fund your retirement. Instead, you plan to claim your benefits early to give yourself a cushion for those first few years in retirement.
Then again, you might enjoy working and want to put off your retirement as long as you can. Maximizing your benefits might the best choice, so you'd plan to wait until you turned 70 to claim your benefits, and you'd get a little more each month when you did.
For many people, Social Security income is just one part of their broader retirement portfolio. But that doesn't mean it's any less important than any other piece. When you want to start claiming your benefits can affect other decisions about when you or your spouse decide to retire. Understanding your full retirement age and the Social Security benefits that come with it is important as you plan for your retirement. These benefits can affect your retirement strategy, so when you want to start collecting them, it's something you'll want to carefully consider and plan for before you hang up the office keys.