What’s The Best Age To Begin Social Security Benefits?

We often hear the question, “What is the best age to begin Social Security benefits?”

And while it may sound confusing, our answer is always: “Well, it depends.”

There are a number of factors that affect when you should begin your benefits, and the answer varies from person to person. Let’s start with the basics. The first important factor is your Full Retirement Age (FRA), sometimes called Normal Retirement Age. Your FRA is the age at which, should you begin benefits, you will receive your full, unreduced benefit amount. While almost everyone is eligible to begin taking benefits as early as age 62, your monthly amount will be permanently reduced if you choose to do that. Those who delay benefits until reaching FRA receive the full amount of benefits they deserve based on the Social Security formula.

The FRA for each person varies by birth year. Take a look at Social Security’s Full Retirement Age Chart for details.

Year of Birth * Full Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943–1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67
*If you were born on January 1st of any year you should refer to the previous year. (If you were born on the 1st of the month, Social Security will figure your benefit (and your full retirement age) as if your birthday was in the previous month.)

Does it Pay to Wait to Maximize Your Benefit?

Many times the advice given in the financial press is to simply delay benefits as long as possible–certainly at least until FRA, and possibly beyond. The reasoning is simple: delaying the start date to your benefits ensures you get a larger monthly benefit, which eventually pays off over your lifetime assuming you live long enough.

In addition, if you start receiving benefits before reaching FRA, you may lose an additional amount if you continue working and earn income above specified thresholds.

For these reasons, the advice to wait until at least FRA seems clearly the best strategy, right? Well, maybe not…

Look at the Whole Picture

We believe it’s important to look holistically at ALL your options. When determining the best time for you to begin benefits, factors other than your FRA and Primary Insurance Amount are critical. Here are just a few of them:

  • life expectancy
  • health
  • other income sources
  • whether or not you will continue working (even part-time), and how much you will earn
  • your marital status and the combined Social Security claiming strategy
  • your portfolio withdrawal rate
  • life expectancy of your spouse
  • whether or not your spouse will continue working

All of these are part of the overall picture and must be carefully analyzed to determine how your Social Security benefits will be best managed in your situation.

Clients of Gratus Capital are welcome to call to review their Social Security claiming strategy any time. In addition, anyone who doesn’t have an advisor to help them make these difficult decisions is welcome to contact us to see if we might be a good fit for them as well.

Authored by: 

Curtis Hearn, CFP®

Wealth Advisor
Wealth Management


Gratus Capital is an SEC-registered investment adviser. Registration with the SEC does not imply any level of skill or training. Our ADV documents are available upon request. The opinions expressed are as of March 2019 and may change as economic conditions vary. The information provided is not intended to be relied upon as specific investment advice and is not a recommendation, offer or solicitation to buy or sell any securities. This article is intended to provide generalized financial information; it does not give personalized tax, investment, legal, or other professional advice. Before taking any action, you should always seek the assistance of a professional who knows your particular situation for advice on taxes, your investments, the law, or any other matters that affect you or your business.