Reflections: Of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Obama
Caroline Kennedy and the U.S. Senate

When to Sign Up for Social Security

The leading edge of the baby boomer generation turns 63 this year. Last year, at age 62, the oldest boomers became eligible for early Social Security, so there is an important question about when to sign up.

The Social Security website has recently launched a new Retirement Estimator that will calculate your monthly benefit, based on your actual earnings, at different retirement dates. The amount is an estimate due to various parameters used, but it isn’t far off and is a big help in deciding when to retire.

Sixty-five was once the absolute age for full benefits for everyone, but the SSA has been gradually raising the age to 67, depending on year of birth. I, for example, born in April 1941, was not eligible for full benefits until age 65 and eight months – October 2006. (See my story about the Social Security ritual I created for myself here.)

There is a good-sized monetary benefit for delaying benefits. Every year you wait between ages 62 and 65, your monthly payment increases by five or six percent. After age 66, each additional year adds about eight percent.

If you can wait until age 70 your benefit, compared to age 62, increases by about $1,000 per month. $12,000 a year is a big difference.

Of course, many factors, personal and professional, enter into the decision: whether you have another pension plan, whether you have a job or have been laid off, investments, your health, the amount of debt you are carrying, etc.

The Social Security Retirement Estimator is a useful, new tool to show you your benefit at different ages and help you make the decision.

[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Lia tells the tale of family secrets and denials in I Just Got Off the Phone.]


This is a very important post to which I hope others pay close attention. I am not eligible for benefits till age 66 and 10 months but if I can hang in there till 68 I get $1000 more a month. I am trying to hang in there since my 401K is about useless.

A caution for widows, however: my spouse started his SS benefits 6 months early even though he was still fully employed (at that time his reasoning was based on concept that the monthly decrease would be more than compensated for after @7 years of benefits). I waited for my full benefit age of 65. Sadly for far more important reasons than SS, he did not complete those 7 years.
When I sat down with the SS person after that, I was told that my benefit is now a "widow's" -- i.e., based not on my 100% but on his less-than-100%.
If your spouse is taking early benefit, do evaluate your status not just as an equally professional "individual" but as a possible widow. Not sure if this works the same for men; probably not since they are apt to be the higher wage earners. Guess the effects of gender discrimination last long after those career years.

Our CPA advised us to take SS as soon as we were eligible for it. His reasoning is "take it while you can; it may not be around much longer."

Of course the government would like us to wait. Social Security may be completely gone by the time most of us reach 70, or sooner.

Those of us who are married and already have a spouse who is receiving his/her full amount of benefit will cause the remaining spouse to be limited to an amount to equal the total amount allowed to couples. So if we worked hard and earned $2,000 benefit each we will never both draw that amount earned anyway, so why not start drawing early if early retirement meets that cap?

the smartest thing i ever did was start collecting SS when I turned 65, even though I didn't retire for another six years. all the while i was working full time, i was contributing to my base, or whatever they call it, and that boosted my SS earnings. my monthly SS check in retirement is now twice what it was when i first started getting it.

you absolutely cannot believe what they tell you for long. my ss check when i turned 65 was about 4/5 of what they said it would be (in writing) when i was 62. they keep changing the rules and the way they figure the benefits.

my kids keep telling me to collect on my ex-husband's benefits, too, but you can't have both. you can collect on your ex-husband's or on your own earnings. due to the march of time, my earnings were higher than his.

I will be 62 0n July 12,2011.
How soon should I signb up for collecting benefits

Everyone tells me to sign up now since I will be 62 this year but I don't know what to do, I feel it is my money but I don't want to jepordize my chances of drawing my full amount.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)