Social Security: Earliest Age to File & the Benefit of Waiting

Contributed by: James Smiertka James Smiertka

According to a recent Gallup poll, 36% of unretired individuals in the U.S. expect to rely on social security as a major source of income. Many of these people don’t completely understand all of the rules of the complex social security system. Fortunately, it’s our job at The Center to know and to educate our clients.

Why Wait to File for Benefits?       

When it comes to your social security benefit, you should know a couple basic things:

  1. You reduce your benefit by receiving benefits earlier than your full retirement age.
  2. You can increase your benefit by waiting until age 70 to collect.

There are certain circumstances in your financial plan that may affect when you file, but you can obtain an 8% increase in your benefit for each year past your full retirement age that you delay receiving your benefit. These “delayed retirement credits” end at age 70. But how much will you lose by filing early? The earliest filing age in a normal situation is 62, and by filing at this age your benefit will be reduced at least 20%. Depending on your full retirement age, your benefit can be reduced up to 30% by filing at age 62 (those born in 1960 or later). Here’s a chart that breaks it down by birth year and filing date:

Source: Social Secuirty.org

Source: Social Secuirty.org

Special Benefits for Widows and Widowers

It gets even more complicated with widow/widower benefits. A widow/widower can receive reduced benefits as early as age 60 or benefits as early as age 50 if he/she is disabled and their disability started before or within 7 years of their spouse’s death. If the widow/widower remarries after they reach age 60, the remarriage does not affect their survivors benefits eligibility. In addition, a widow/widower who has not remarried can receive survivors benefits at any age if he/she is taking care of their deceased spouse’s child who is under the age of 16 or is disabled and receives benefits on their deceased spouse’s record.

In conclusion, you will receive a reduced benefit if you claim before your full retirement age, and waiting until age 70 to collect is a great way to maximize your own benefit and/or the benefit you leave to your surviving spouse. If anything is certain, it is that the social security rules can definitely be enough to make your head spin, so remember to consult your CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional here at The Center for Financial Planning if you have any questions.

James Smiertka is a Client Service Associate at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.


This material is being provided for information purposes only and is not a complete description, nor is it a recommendation. Any opinions are those of Jim Smiertka and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Prior to making a financial decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation.