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Ask the Expert: How much do I lose by taking Social Security early?

I stopped working at 62, but didn't take Social Security then. My retirement age to collect full Social Security is 66 and 2 months, which will be in October 2021. By that time I will not have worked for four years. Will I get less than my full benefit at 66 and 2 months because I haven't worked for four years? Would I lose anything by taking my benefit at age 65?

Your full retirement age for Social Security is based on your birth date, not on when you stop working — and your benefit is always smaller if you take it before full retirement age. For people born between 1943 and 1955, that's 66. For those born between 1955 and 1960, it gradually rises from 66 to 67.

To find out exactly how much you'll receive if you apply early, use the Social Security Retirement Estimate calculator, which is linked to your actual earnings record. You can type in your own assumptions to see how stopping work early or taking Social Security before full retirement age would affect the size of your benefit.

The earlier you start collecting it, the greater the reduction in your benefit. If your full retirement age is 66 and 2 months and you take Social Security at 65, you'll receive 92.2 percent of the amount you'd receive at 66 and 2 months. For example, if your full retirement benefit is $1,000 a month, at 65 you'll receive $922. The reduction will be permanent. Like all Social Security recipients, you'll receive annual cost of living increases; but your check will always be smaller than if you'd waited until your full retirement age to take it.

The bottom line

If you start Social Security before your full retirement age, your benefit is permanently reduced.

More information

ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/estimator.html 

ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10147.pdf

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday, 6 Corporate Center Dr., Melville, NY 11747, or email act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone numbers. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own consultants for your specific needs.

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