When Should You Apply For Social Security Benefits?

The earliest age you can file for retirement in the US is 62. But opting to retire before your full retirement age will reduce your benefits.

This is what many Americans fail to take into consideration when planning their retirement. A study by United Income revealed that only 4% of Americans claim their retirement at the most financially viable time. This means that up to 96% of American retirees are losing out a portion of their retirement benefits.

We can’t blame them though. With the demands of the modern workplace, you’d be lucky to reach that age without any chronic medical condition.

Supposing you are perfectly healthy by age 60 and you expect to remain that way for the next ten years, when is the best time to retire for you?

The answer lies in these two factors that affect your social security retirement amount:

  • your social security credits
  • your age when you filed for retirement

The right age coupled with a high social security credit can give you the optimal amount of retirement benefits.

How Social Security Credit Works

Working in a job that pays social security taxes can earn you social security credits. These credits affect the retirement benefits you are entitled to.

Basically, your social security credits depend on your average income throughout your entire working career. The amount of earnings needed to earn credits changes every year. In 2019, an income of $1,360 can earn you one credit. Each worker can earn no more than four credits a year.

People born before 1929 need to earn at least 40 credits to be eligible for retirement. This translates to 10 years of working and paying social security taxes. If you are born after 1929, the requirement is lesser.

To check your social security credits, the SSA allows you to view your work earnings history online. Just go to their website and sign-up or log-in to your SSA account.

Benefits of Retiring at Full Retirement Age (FRA)

We’ve already established that your age plays a huge role in how much retirement benefits you’re entitled to. The earlier you file for retirement, the lesser you will get. And waiting until your full retirement age (FRA) will make you eligible for the full amount of your benefits.

But when is the full retirement age? Some would say it’s 65. But the full retirement age, according to the SSA, depends on when you were born.

If you were born in 1937 or earlier, your full retirement age is 65. This gradually increases by two months for every year thereafter. For those born between 1943 to 1954, the FRA is 66. While those born in 1960 or later will reach full retirement age at 67. See the full FRA chart from SSA here.

If your FRA is at 67, filing for retirement at 62 will reduce your benefits by about 30%. This percentage decreases as your retirement age increases. For example, if you opt to retire at 63, your benefits will only be reduced by 25%. While retiring at 64 will only take away 20% of your benefits. At 65, you will lose 13.3% of your retirement benefits and only 6.7% if you retire at 66.

For those born before 1960 (and thus have lower FRA), the reduction is much lesser. You can view the full schedule here.

Retiring Past 70

While the oldest full retirement age is at 67, when you’ll retire is still up to you. But there’s an advantage to delaying your claim past your full retirement age.

Filing for retirement after your FRA will entitle you to delayed retirement credits. This increases your retirement benefits by up to 8% depending on when you were born. (See the full schedule here.)

This increase, however, no longer applies once you reach 70 even if you continue to delay your claim. Thus, there is no financial benefit in retiring past 70 years old.

Other Factors to Consider

At first glance, retiring at 70 may seem like the best choice to get the most benefits. But this is only ideal if you are in top health and expect to live for a long time. Or if you think you’ll outlive your spouse. ( Survivorship benefit is usually equal to your retirement benefit.)

In truth, there are other factors to consider to determine the right age to file for retirement. These include:

  • your life expectancy
  • medical condition
  • health insurance
  • other benefits you are receiving/are eligible to
  • source of income should you delay your claim past FRA

So, when should you apply for social security retirement benefits?

It depends. If you claim your retirement benefits earlier, you’ll receive much less. But there is a high chance that you’ll enjoy it for much longer. Filing for retirement when you are older might give you more monthly, but you won’t get to enjoy it for long.

In the long run, you might stand to gain more from retiring earlier than waiting until your full retirement age. But, of course, you still need to take your current circumstances into account.


Applying for social security disability benefits might be easy for you. But getting it approved is an altogether different story. A large percentage of first time SSDI applications are denied.

This is why you need an experienced workers compensation lawyer like Victor Malca. He has been helping injured workers in Florida for over 23 years. He can help you get the benefits you rightfully deserve. Contact us now for a free consultation.

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