Important Things to Consider When Planning for Retirement
What Is The Best Age To Start Your Benefits?
There is no one "best age" for everyone. Ultimately, it is your choice. You should make an informed decision about when to apply for benefits based on your personal situation.
Your monthly benefit amount can differ greatly based on the age when you start receiving benefits. If you decide to start benefits:
- Before your full retirement age, your benefit will be smaller but you will receive it for a longer period.
- At your full retirement age or later, you will receive a larger monthly benefit for a shorter period.
The amount you receive when you first get benefits sets the base for the amount you will receive for the rest of your life.
You may want to consider the following when deciding:
If you plan to continue working while receiving benefits, there are limits on how much you can earn each year between age 62 and full retirement age and still get all of your benefits.
Once you reach full retirement age, your earnings do not affect your benefits.
- After you reach full retirement age, we recalculate your benefit amount to give you credit for any months you did not receive a benefit because of your earnings.
- When additional earnings appear on your record, we check to see if they will increase your monthly benefit. If they do, we will send you a letter telling you your new benefit amount.
- You can apply for just Medicare at age 65 and start receiving retirement benefits later.
When you think about retirement, be sure to plan for the long term.
Since the program first began paying monthly Social Security benefits in 1940, the average life expectancy for men reaching age 65 has increased nearly 7 years to age 84.3. For women reaching age 65, average life expectancy has increased nearly 7 years to age 86.6.
If you come from a long-lived family, you may need the extra money more in later years, particularly if you may outlive pensions or annuities with limits on how long they are paid.
If you are not in good health, you may decide to start your benefits earlier.
If you stop working, not only will you lose your paycheck, but you may also lose employer-provided health insurance. Although there are exceptions, most people will not be covered by Medicare until they reach age 65.
Your employer should be able to tell you if you will have health insurance benefits after you retire or if you are eligible for temporary continuation of health coverage. If your spouse is employed, you may be able to switch to their health insurance.
Should I apply for Medicare?
Remember, Medicare usually starts when you reach age 65.
If you decide to delay starting your benefits past age 65, be sure to go online and file for Medicare.
You will need to apply for Original Medicare (Part A and Part B) three months before you turn age 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.
Even if you have health insurance through a current or former employer or as part of your severance package, you should contact them to find out if you need to sign up for Medicare. Some health insurance plans change automatically at age 65.
Please read the general and special enrollment period information in our Medicare booklet to find out what may happen if you delay.
If you are eligible on another record, you may have additional options:
- If you qualify for benefits as a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse on another record, you may choose to apply for survivors benefits now and delay your retirement benefit until later.
If you delay receiving your retirement benefit until your full retirement age or later, your retirement benefit will be higher.
- If you were born before January 2, 1954, and have already reached your full retirement age, and are eligible for a spouse’s or divorced-spouse’s benefit and your own retirement benefit, you can choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your retirement benefit until a later date. If your birthday is January 2, 1954, or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If you file for one benefit, you will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.
If you don't need your benefits now, you may decide to:
- Wait beyond full retirement age to receive delayed retirement credits.
- Choose early retirement and increase the value of your benefits by investing them instead of spending them.
Reminder: If you're receiving early retirement from your employer, keep in mind that some company pensions include a Social Security-equivalent supplement that stops automatically at age 62.
The supplement stops because they assume you will apply for your retirement benefits at age 62.
When you start receiving Social Security retirement benefits, some members of your family also qualify to receive benefits on your record.
If they qualify, your spouse or child may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your full retirement benefit amount. These payments will not decrease your retirement benefit.
Get personalized retirement benefit estimates
Choosing when to retire is an important and personal decision. The best way to start planning for your future is by creating a my Social Security account. With your personal my Social Security account, you can verify your earnings, and use our Retirement Calculator to get an estimate of your retirement benefits.