Social Security actually encompasses several benefit categories, but our focus here is on Social Security retirement benefits. Here are the first things to know:
- You have several options in deciding when to collect Social Security. In general, the longer you wait to collect Social Security, the more money you’ll get in your monthly payment.
- In order to obtain Social Security in retirement, you must be at least 62 years old. However…
- In order to get your “full” Social Security benefit, the retirement age is currently 66. So, if you retire before 66, you will get a smaller monthly Social Security benefit than if you wait until you are 66.
- If you delay getting Social Security until you are older than 66, your monthly payout will increase.
While holding off on Social Security will increase your monthly payment total, it will not necessarily increase the amount you get out of Social Security overall, because starting Social Security earlier means you’ll be getting benefits longer, even if each monthly payment is smaller. Ultimately the amount you get from Social Security will depend on how long you live. So, in order to choose, it may be most important to consider whether you need extra money at 62 based on your job status, health, etc., or whether it makes sense to wait. (For more thoughts on this, and to see examples of how monthly payments might vary by age, go to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10147.html)
With all of that said, you can apply for Social Security retirement benefits online at https://www.ssa.gov/retire/apply.html.