I retired at 61 and I'll be 63 in August, but I haven't yet applied for Social Security. My benefits "estimate" on Social Security's website assumes I'll earn wages until full retirement age. I've read about the advantages of waiting until then to collect Social Security. Is it also advantageous to an early retiree who won't re-enter the workforce?
Yes. No matter when you stop working, your Social Security benefit is bigger if you wait until your full retirement age to collect it.
For Social Security purposes, full retirement age is based on your birth date. For people born between 1943 and 1955, full retirement age is 66. For those born between 1955 and 1960, it gradually rises from 66 to 67. If you take Social Security earlier, your benefit is permanently reduced. The earlier you start, the greater the reduction. If your full retirement age is 66 and you take Social Security at 62, for example, you receive only 75 percent of your full benefit.
If you wait from 62 to age 70, your starting benefit grows bigger for each month of delay. At 66, you get 100 percent of your benefit; and at 70, you get 132 percent. (Yearly inflation adjustments are in addition to these increases for delay.)
The standard Social Security benefits estimate does assume you'll work until full retirement age. But you can get much more precise numbers from the Social Security Retirement Estimate calculator at ssa.gov. The calculator is linked to your actual earnings record, and you can type in your own assumptions to see exactly how working fewer years, earning more or less, or changing the date you start to collect Social Security would affect the size of your benefit.
The bottom line If you start Social Security before your full retirement age, your benefit is permanently reduced.
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