The earliest you can start collecting retirement benefits is age 62. You can apply once you reach 61 years and 9 months of age.
However, Social Security reduces your payment if you start collecting before your full retirement age, or FRA. (FRA is currently 66 and 2 months and is gradually rising to 67 for people born in 1960 or later.) Only then do you qualify for 100 percent of your basic monthly benefit, which is calculated from your 35 highest-earning years.
Your payment will increase even more if you wait until age 70 to apply, as you’ll be accruing delayed retirement credits. (You can apply later than 70, but it doesn’t change your benefit.)
The starting age can differ for other types of Social Security benefits:
- Spousal benefits can begin at 62, as long as the spouse on whose work record you are claiming them is receiving retirement benefits.
- You can apply for survivor benefits on the record of a deceased spouse or ex-spouse at 60; 50 if you are disabled; or any age if you are caring for the deceased’s under-16 or disabled child.
- There is no minimum age requirement for Social Security Disability Insurance. You may qualify for disability benefits with less time in the workforce than you need to collect retirement benefits, but you must also demonstrate that your medical condition meets Social Security’s strict definition of disability and show evidence that it prevents you from working. The agency is facing a huge backlog of pending disability cases, according to a 2018 report by its inspector general.
Keep in mind
The question of when you can receive benefits is separate from a more important question: When should you claim benefits? The answer is complicated and depends on your job situation, family circumstances, and financial and physical health.
Updated April 28, 2021
Find the answers to the most common Social Security questions such as when to claim, how to maximize your retirement benefits and more.