When Should You Start Social Security?

Posted on: August 3rd, 2011 by Lawrence A. Friedman

Your Social Security retirement benefit depends on your earnings history and when you choose to start receiving Social Security. While you can start Social Security retirement benefits at age 62, if you elect to begin Social Security before reaching normal retirement age (“NRA”), your benefit is reduced. On the other hand, SS benefits rise by close to eight percent per year for each year you defer the start up to age 70. NRA varies by birth date, and ranges from age 65 for people born before 1938 to age 67 for people born in or after 1960. For instance, starting Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 yields only about three quarters the benefit you would receive if you waited until NRA to commence Social Security. By the same token, delaying the start of Social Security to age 70 should increase your monthly check by about a third. You can determine your particular early start discount or deferred start premium from the Social Security Administration’s benefit calculator at .

In periods of modest inflation, the eight percent per year premium for delaying the start of Social Security retirement benefits should exceed the annual cost of living adjustment (“COLA”). This makes it more attractive to defer your Social Security start date, and the recent debt ceiling agreement may make deferral even more lucrative. An option being discussed to reduce spending would change the Social Security COLA index to reduce annual COLAs. This would increase the gap between the eight percent per year premium for deferring the start of Social Security and the annual Social Security COLA. Thus, deferring Social Security start date could yield considerably more in lifetime Social Security retirement benefits unless you pass away prematurely.

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