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Social Security Q&A

When Should You Retire Under Social Security? Here is the Agency's View

Popular questions from those who face Social Security retirement decisions are answered by Social Security specialist

When Should I Retire?

How will part-time work affect my Social Security?

What if I work after drawing benefits?

May 30, 2012 – Almost everyone nearing the age when they can begin drawing from Social Security under the early retirement provision faces the question – “Should I take early retirement or wait until I reach the full retirement age?” Here a Social Security specialist provides the facts, answers related questions and points the way to more help by Social Security.

These questions are answered by Oscar Garcia, a Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration in San Antonio, Texas.


Will I come out ahead if I start benefits early, or is it better if I wait to get my full amount?


If you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, it does not matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits this month, at age 66, at age 70 or any age in between. You will still receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits.

If you apply for benefits before full retirement age, currently age 66, your benefits will be reduced because you are taking them earlier.


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For example, if your retirement benefits start at age 65, your benefit will be 93.3% of what you would receive at full retirement age. However, you would receive benefits for 12 more months over your lifetime. So you have to consider receiving smaller payments for a longer period of time instead of waiting to receive larger payments over a shorter period of time.

You can also delay receiving retirement benefits until after you reach full retirement age (any month up to age 70), you can increase your benefit by accumulating Delayed Retirement Credits. If your full retirement age is 66 and you wait until age 70, your benefit will be 132% of your full retirement age benefit.

The answer to your question also depends on if you have family members who qualify for benefits. A delay means you would lose some of the benefits they might have received.

However, delaying benefits also increases the maximum monthly survivor’s benefit your spouse may receive.

Here is something else to consider. Even if you plan to continue working, you may still be able to receive some benefits. If you are under full retirement age and you earn over a certain amount, we will deduct the excess earnings from your benefits.

If you delay receiving benefits until the month you reach full retirement age, you may receive your benefits with no limit on your earnings.

For more information that will help you decide the best time to start benefits, please visit our Retirement Planner at:


I paid the maximum amount of Social Security taxes for many years and retired early. Then I took part-time employment and I am now earning much less. How will this affect my benefit at age 62 and at full retirement age?


First, if you begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 62, the earliest possible age for receiving retirement benefits, your benefit amount will be lower than if you had waited until full retirement age. 

Second, because of the years when you worked part-time and had low earnings, your benefit amount may be lower than if you had continued in your previous job paying the maximum.

Your benefit payment is based on how much you earned during your working career. Higher lifetime earnings result in higher benefits. 

To test different retirement scenarios, we suggest you use our new Retirement Estimator. The Retirement Estimator produces estimates based on your actual Social Security earnings record. So you will be able to see the impact of your present and projected future earnings on your estimated benefit. This is particularly helpful for people who are near retirement and need to get more precise estimates. The Retirement Estimator is located at


I am nearing my full retirement age, but I plan to keep working after I apply for Social Security benefits.  Will my benefits be reduced because of my income?


No.  If you apply for benefits once you’ve reached your full retirement age, you can work while you receive Social Security and your current benefit will not be reduced because of the earned income. 

If you keep working, it could mean a higher benefit for you in the future.  Higher benefits can be important to you later in life and increase the future benefit amounts your survivors could receive. 

If you receive benefits before your full retirement age, your earnings could reduce your monthly benefit amount.  After you reach full retirement age, we recalculate your benefit amount to leave out the months when we reduced or withheld benefits due to your excess earnings. 

You can learn more by reading our publication, “How Work Affects Your Benefits”, at

Oscar Garcia is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration. You can direct your questions to him at: SSA, 411 Richland Hills Drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78245. You can also email him at


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