Your Options: Working, Applying for Retirement Benefits, or Both?

Choosing when to start receiving your Social Security retirement benefits is an important decision. There’s no one choice that works for everyone because your lifestyle, finances, and goals are not the same as others.

Do you want to retire early, stay on the job, or work beyond retirement age?

Should you start receiving retirement benefits now, or wait until you can receive a higher benefit amount?

These are important questions you’ll need to answer as you plan for your retirement. Consider the four options below to help you make the best decision.

Continue Working Stop Working
Claim Benefits A B
Not Claim Benefits C D
If you are or were married, there are even more details to consider. Find out more by reading our fact sheet When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits.

A. You can continue working and start receiving your retirement benefits

If you start your benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age.

You can get Social Security retirement benefits and work at the same time before your full retirement age. However your benefits will be reduced if you earn more than the yearly earnings limits.

After you reach your full retirement age, we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months you did not receive a benefit because of your earnings. We will send you a letter that explains any increase in your benefit amount.

If you delay filing for your benefits until after full retirement age, you will be eligible for delayed retirement credits that would increase your monthly benefit. If you also continue to work, you will be able to receive your full retirement benefits and any increase resulting from your additional earnings when we recalculate your benefits. Once you reach full retirement age, your earnings do not affect your benefit amount.

If you start receiving retirement benefits before age 65, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) when you turn 65. If you or your spouse are still working and covered under an employer-provided group health plan, talk to the personnel office before signing up for Medicare Part B. To learn more, read our Medicare publication.

B. You can stop working and start receiving your retirement benefits

If you make the decision to stop working and start receiving retirement benefits before your full retirement age, your benefits are reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age. Also, your benefits will not increase because of additional earnings.

We calculate your benefits based on your highest 35 years of earnings, and if you stop working before you have attained 35 years of earnings or you have years with low earnings, this will affect your benefit calculation.

If you delay your benefits until after full retirement age, you will be eligible for delayed retirement credits that would increase your benefit.

If you stop working and start receiving retirement benefits before age 65, you are automatically enrolled in Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) when you turn 65. If you are not receiving your Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you will need to apply for Medicare benefits three months before you turn 65. If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare coverage.

C. You can continue working and not receive your retirement benefits

If you decide to continue working and not start your benefits until after full retirement age, your benefits will increase for each month you do not receive them until you reach age 70. There is no incentive to delay filing for your benefits after age 70. Continuing to work may also increase your benefits, because your current earnings could replace an earlier year of lower or no earnings, which can result in a higher benefit amount.

If you are not receiving your Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you will need to apply for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) three months before you turn 65. If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible at age 65, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare coverage.

However, if you or your spouse are still working and covered under an employer-provided group health plan, talk to your personnel office before signing up for Medicare Part B. Once the covered employment ends, you may be eligible for a Special Enrollment Period to sign up for Part B. If so, you won’t have to pay a late enrollment penalty.

D. You can stop working and not begin receiving your retirement benefits

Deciding not to start your retirement benefits can make sense if you have other sources of income. If you stop working, your benefits will not increase because of additional earnings.

We calculate your benefits based on your highest 35 years of earnings. If you stop working before you have 35 years of earnings, or you have low earnings for some years, this will affect your benefit calculation. However, if you wait to start benefits after you reach full retirement age, your benefits will increase for each month you do not receive them until you reach age 70. There is no incentive to delay filing for your benefits after age 70.

If you are not receiving your Social Security benefits when you turn 65, you will need to apply for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) three months before you turn 65. If you don’t sign up for Medicare Part B when you’re first eligible at age 65, you may have to pay a late enrollment penalty for as long as you have Medicare coverage.