A secure comfortable retirement is every worker's dream. And now because we are living longer healthier lives, we can expect to spend even more time in retirement than our parents and grandparents did. Hi, I am Mike Baksa of the Social Security Administration. As a Social Security representative, I am often asked what is the best age to start receiving retirement benefits? The answer is there really is no one best age for everyone. You can start your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Your monthly benefit amount will be different depending on the age you start receiving it.

If you begin receiving benefits before your full retirement age, you will receive a reduced benefit. You can choose to retire as early as age 62, but doing so will result in lower benefits. On the other hand, starting your benefits after full retirement age may result in larger benefits. With delayed retirement credits you can receive your largest benefit by beginning to receive benefit payments at age 70. If you were born between 1943 and 1954 and are now considering retirement, the reduction for early retirement at age 62 is 25 percent. Then again, delaying benefits until age 70 results in an increase of 32 percent. The increase in full retirement age was the result of the 1983 amendments to the Social Security act by Congress.

Regardless of your full retirement age, reduced benefits can still be paid as early as age 62. I was born in 1947. For many of us of the baby boom generation, full retirement age is 66. For younger individuals, here is how it works if your full retirement age is 67. That is if you were born in 1960 or later. If you start your retirement benefits at age 62, your monthly benefit amount is reduced by about 30 percent. The reduction for starting benefits at age 63 is about 25 percent. At age 64, about 20 percent. At age 65, about 13.3 percent. At age 66, the reduction is about 6.7 percent. Remember, the age at which you begin your benefits establishes your basic benefit amount for the future as well. Benefits will not necessarily increase when you reach your full retirement age. Now, one word of caution. The Medicare eligibility age of 65 has not changed. If you are not receiving benefits, you should inquire about Medicare three months before your 65th birthday even if you plan to apply for your retirement benefits later. Most beneficiaries receiving benefits when they turn 65 are automatically enrolled in Medicare. Beneficiaries in Puerto Rico, however, should contact us three months before turning 65 to enroll in Medicare Part B.

If you delay applying for benefits until after your full retirement age, your benefit will be increased. For people born in 1943 or later, the increase is 8 percent per year added on to the unreduced benefit up until age 70. Even if you continue to delay taking benefits until after age 70, you will receive no additional delay benefit increases. When you start your retirement benefits, also affects the amount your surviving spouse may receive if you die. If you start your benefits before full retirement age, we can't pay your surviving spouse the full benefit amount from your record. The maximum survivor's benefit is limited to what you would receive if you were still alive. You start your benefits after full retirement age, your surviving spouse may receive your full benefit plus any accumulated delayed retirement credits you may have earned by delaying your retirement application until after your full retirement age.

Now, here is an example of reduced full and delayed benefits. Let's say your full retirement age is 66, and your unreduced benefit at age 66 is $1000 per month. Well, the fully reduced benefit at age 62 would be $750 per month. And if you were to delay applying until age 70, you would receive a 32 percent increase to the unreduced benefit of a thousand dollars. The choice is yours. You can also see the difference between benefits taken at age 62 versus age 70 in this example. Accidents or unexpected changes in your circumstances can't be ruled out of course. So your final decision may be based on your best guess about your future. Regardless of your personal preference I think it is good to know, that if you live to the average life expectancy for someone your age, you will receive about the same amount in lifetime benefits no matter whether you choose to start receiving benefits at age 62, at full retirement age, at age 70, or at any age in between.

Now, an easy way to check your estimated benefits is through your Social Security statement. We've made it easier than ever for almost all workers to keep on top of their recorded wages and possible benefit amounts based on those earnings. Whether you are interested in your future retirement benefits at different ages, or want to check on the protections you are providing your family in case of disability or death, your statement can now be viewed any time you wish. All you have to do is create a My Social Security account on-line at Social Security's website: www.socialsecurity.gov. The nice thing about the on-line statement is that you cannot only view it, but you can also save and print it any time you want. The statement is available at My Social Security.

Creating your Social Security account before you apply for benefits offers more than just your statement. After you start receiving benefits, you will be able to take care of many Social Security transactions on line. While future retirees are checking their estimated benefits, you will be able to change your address, or direct deposit information, without the need to travel to a Social Security office. Once you begin receiving benefits you'll even be able to get a benefit verification letter instantly at My Social Security. My Social Security is the fastest, easiest, and most secure way to access your personal Social Security information. I recommend it. I realize that choosing the best time to retire and to apply for Social Security retirement benefits is a big step. But it is one made easier by some preparation. After reviewing your statement at My Social Security, take a look at the other information we have at our retirement page. You will find everything from basic information to charts and calculators. All designed to make your big step into retirement a gentler one. And for those of you who are on the go a lot, here is something new you might like. With the convenience of a smart phone in hand, you can take care of even more Social Security business without traveling to an office.

Now, before I close I want to remind you about the Affordable Care Act signed into law in 2010. Key parts of the Affordable Care Act take effect January 1st, 2014. And beginning October 1st of 2013 you can get information about the plans available in your area by visiting www.healthcare.gov. You may also call 1-800-318-2596 to speak to a representative. Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace at www.healthcare.gov to get information about how the Affordable Care Act can help you. Again that is: www.healthcare.gov. Thanks for joining me today and I hope to see you again in future presentations about Social Security.