Strictly speaking, no. If, for example, you stop working at age 60 but wait until 67 to claim Social Security, your benefit will not be reduced because you did not work in those seven years. What you would lose is an opportunity to make your benefit bigger.
Here’s why. Social Security calculates your retirement benefit by:
- Taking your highest 35 years of earnings from work in which you paid Social Security taxes
- Adjusting those income numbers for historical changes in U.S. wages
- Deriving a figure for your monthly average income
- Plugging that average into a formula that produces your benefit payment
If you stop work at 60, your top 35 years at that age are the same as your top 35 at 67. Your calculation, and the monthly average income on which your benefit is based, would be the same.
However, if you continue working in those years, and they turn out to be among your 35 highest-earning years, they will displace lower-income years in Social Security’s calculations, driving up your monthly average income and, therefore, your benefit.
Keep in mind
- If you claim benefits with fewer than 35 years of earnings, Social Security credits you with no income for each year up to 35. For example, if you worked for 30 years, there will be five zeroes in your benefit calculation. If you continue working, each year with earnings displaces a zero.
- If you file before reaching full retirement age, your benefit is reduced whether you work or not. Full retirement age is 66 and 4 months for people born in 1956 and two months later for those born in 1957. The age is gradually increasing to 67.