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Social Security Q&A

When Should Boomers Apply for Social Security? Should They Choose Early Retirement?

Your benefit amount is higher if you begin receiving benefits closer to your full retirement age

March 21, 2014 - When can you apply for Social Security benefits and how do you do it? Some rather basic questions answered in this week's Social Security Q&A for boomers who are just becoming old enough. And, there is the major decision for those thinking about applying - should you take early retirement?


I plan to receive my Social Security retirement this August when I turn 62. I received an estimate of my benefit about two years ago. The estimate is based on the assumption that I would continue to earn the same amount in 2013 and 2014 as I did in 2012. 

I actually stopped working at the end of 2012. What impact will that have on my estimate? When is the earliest I can apply? How much more will it be if I wait until August 2015? This is important as I do not have any other income to live on.


You can apply for benefits as early as three months before August.  You can submit your application online at or call 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment.

You can obtain an estimate of your benefit amount by creating a “my Social Security” account at

Your current benefit estimate would not change very much from the one that you last received which included your earnings through 2012.  More than likely it would be a little lower, but not by much. 


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For each year before you start benefits in which you do not work, or for each year that your earnings drop, your estimate declines by an average of $10 to $20 dollars. Therefore, if you did not work last year and you are not working this year, then you can expect your last benefit estimate to be about $20 to $40 less.

You will be able to get a better estimate based on your actual situation when you create your “my Social Security” account. It allows you to enter a stop-work year and to get an estimate based on your situation. If you wait until you are 63 to start benefits, then you would receive about 80% of your full benefit amount as compared to starting at age 62.  This is based on having a full retirement age of 66 and filing 36 months early rather than 48 months early.


Do I receive credit if I continue to work and elect not to receive benefits?


After workers reach full retirement age, they receive special credit - referred to as a delayed retirement credit (DRC) - for each full month before age 70 in which they are eligible for, but do not receive Social Security benefits.

Any DRC that a worker earns also applies to the benefits of the worker's widow or widower. The rate of this DRC is 8% for anyone born in 1943 and after. Monthly benefits prior to full retirement age are based upon a person’s age when they are applying.

Your benefit amount is higher if you begin receiving benefits closer to your full retirement age.  The following examples show the percentage your benefit at different ages before your full retirement age.

If your full retirement age is 66, the benefit amount for starting your retirement benefits at age:
   > 62 is about 75 percent;
   > 63 is about 80 percent;
   > 64 is about 86.7 percent; and at age
   > 65 is about 92.3 percent.

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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