The most popular ages to sign up for Social Security
You can sign up for Social Security at any time after age 62. However, your monthly payments will be larger for each month you delay claiming them up until age 70. Here is when most people start receiving Social Security payments, and how signing up at each age impacts your payout.
Age 62. The most popular age to claim Social Security payments is age 62, the earliest possible age you can sign up. However, the proportion of people signing up for Social Security at age 62 has been declining since the mid-1990s, according to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College analysis of Social Security Administration data. Some 48 percent of women and 42 percent of men signed up for Social Security at age 62 in 2013, down from around 60 percent of women and 55 percent of men in 2005, CRR found.
Social Security payments are reduced if you claim them before your full retirement age, which is typically age 66 or 67, depending on your birth year. If you sign up at age 62, you will get 25 percent smaller monthly payments if your full retirement age is 66 and 30 percent smaller payments if your full retirement age is 67. For example, a worker who would be eligible for a $1,000 monthly Social Security benefit at his full retirement age of 66 would get just $750 a month if he signs up for Social Security at age 62. "A lot of people just take it as soon as they can, and if you take it too early, you're really leaving a lot of money on the table," says Joel Shaps, a certified financial planner for Bedrock Capital Management in Los Altos, California.
Age 63. It's relatively unusual to claim Social Security payments at age 63. Only 8 percent of women and 7 percent of men sign up for Social Security at this age, according to CRR. Monthly Social Security payments are reduced if you sign up at age 63, but by less than if you claim payments at age 62. A worker eligible for $1,000 monthly at age 66 would get $800 a month at age 63, a 20 percent pay cut. If your full retirement age is 67 you will get 25 percent less by signing up at age 63.
Age 64. Another rare age for people to claim Social Security benefits is age 64. CRR found that 8 percent of women and 7 percent of men claim benefits at this age. Social Security payments are reduced by 13.4 percent for those with a full retirement age of 66 and 20 percent for people with a full retirement age of 67. A $1,000 retirement benefit would be reduced to $866 for most baby boomers who sign up at this age.
Age 65. The full retirement age used to be 65 for people born in 1937 and earlier, but was then gradually increased in two-month increments to 66 for everyone born between 1943 and 1954. The full retirement age increases to 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later. Baby boomers who claim benefits at this age will see their payments reduced by about 7 percent, so a person eligible for $1,000 at age 66 would get $933 monthly starting at age 65. Members of Generation Y will see their payments reduced by 13.3 percent if they claim payments at age 65.
Age 66. This is the age when people born between 1943 and 1954 are eligible to claim unreduced Social Security benefits. CRR found just over a third of men (34 percent) and a quarter of women (27 percent) sign up for Social Security benefits at their full retirement age, which is the second most popular age to claim payments. "When you take it at your full retirement age, which for a lot of people retiring today is 66, there are no reductions in benefits," says Christopher Rhim, a certified financial planner for Green View Advisors in Norwich, Vermont. For those who have a full retirement age of 67, you will get a 6.7 percent pay cut if you sign up for payments at age 66.
Age 67. People born after 1959 will be able to claim unreduced Social Security payments starting at age 67. And boomers who delay claiming their Social Security benefit until age 67 will get an 8 percent increase in their payments, which would boost a $1,000 monthly payment to $1,080.
Age 68. Baby boomers get 16 percent more if they claim Social Security payments at age 68, increasing a $1,000 Social Security payment to $1,160 a month. Members of Generation Y will get 8 percent more if they sign up for Social Security at 68.
Age 69. Those born in 1960 or later get 16 percent more by claiming their Social Security benefit at age 69, and baby boomers can boost their benefit by 24 percent. A worker could increase a $1,000 Social Security benefit to $1,240 by signing up at age 69.
Age 70. Baby boomers can increase their Social Security benefit by 32 percent by waiting until age 70 to sign up, boosting that $1,000 Social Security payment to $1,320 a month. People born after 1959 will get 24 percent more by claiming payments beginning at age 70. However, only 4 percent of women and 2 percent of men hold out until age 70, according to CRR.
"If the goal is to get as much Social Security income as possible, the way you get that is by claiming as late as possible," says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College. "If you want a higher Social Security benefit, wait until 70." After age 70 there is no additional increase for further delaying your Social Security payments.
Emily Brandon is the senior editor for Retirement at U.S. News. You can contact her on Twitter @aiming2retire, circle her on Google Plus or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.