You can claim Social Security retirement benefits at any time after reaching 62 years of age. But you are not entitled to your full retirement benefit — 100 percent of the benefit calculated from your lifetime earnings history — until you reach full retirement age, or FRA (currently 66 and 2 months and gradually rising to 67). Your benefit is reduced a fraction of a percent for each month before FRA that you filed, and the reduction is permanent.
So, if you retire at, say, age 62 and 6 months, your benefit is, in effect, prorated — you are credited for waiting six months after becoming eligible. If you were born in 1959, that works out to a 2.5-point bump: The benefit reduction is 29.2 percent at 62, 26.7 percent at 62 and 6 months.
The prorating effect can continue up to age 70. Past your FRA, you earn delayed retirement credits that boost your eventual benefit by 2/3 of 1 percent for each month you wait to claim Social Security, until you hit 70.
Keep in mind
This prorating works similarly for spousal benefits you receive on a husband's or wife's earnings record: They are reduced if taken before FRA, but by a lower percentage for each month past age 62 that you wait to claim them. But there are no delayed retirement credits for spouse benefits; they max out at full retirement age.
Updated June 9, 2021
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