Q. There's a lot of talk these days about increasing the age at which people can get their Social Security. But isn't the full retirement age already being increased?
A. You are correct. The full retirement age is slowly creeping up. It has gone from 65 to 66 and will be going to 67. These changes were mandated by Congress in 1983 as part of a measure that strengthened Social Security finances.
Congress cited improvements in the health of older persons and increases in life expectancy as reasons for raising the retirement age. Raising the age further is one of many possible changes being discussed in Washington now.
Currently, 66 is the full retirement age for people born between 1943 and 1954. Starting with people born in 1955, the full retirement age will inch upward, rather than jumping right to 67. A person born in 1955 will have to be 66 and 2 months to be considered at full retirement age, while someone born in 1956 will have to be 66 and 4 months. A person born in 1960 or later will not reach full retirement age until 67.
For full details, have a look at Social Security's Full Retirement Age table.
Despite the increasing age for full retirement benefits, people will still be able to take benefits as early as age 62 — as many people do. However, their monthly benefits will be reduced because they will be receiving more payments for a longer period of time.
That reduction will get larger as the full retirement age rises.
A person born before 1937 who took benefits at 62 received a 20 percent reduction. But a person born in 1960 who takes benefits at 62 will get 30 percent less.
To see how early retirement benefits are reduced by year of birth, look at this Social Security Administration chart.
Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.