American workers become eligible for Social Security benefits as early as 62 years old, which is known as early retirement age. The amount of Social Security benefits a worker will receive is determined by the amount of credits earned and the age a worker retires.
Workers can start receiving full retirement age benefits at 66 years old if they were born between 1943 and 1954. For those born in 1955 and beyond, the full retirement age is 67. When a worker decides to receive their benefits earlier than the full retirement age, the total amount received is reduced. According to the United States Social Security Administration, a worker born in 1957 will receive a 27.5% reduction in total retirement income from Social Security when choosing to receive early retirement age benefits. Choosing to take early retirement will also affect the amount that a spouse will receive. In the same example, a worker’s spouse would also receive a 32.5% reduction in benefits. The actual percentage of early retirement age reduction will depend on several factors including the worker’s birth year and the date of the early retirement.
Social Security benefits can be delayed until the age of 70 years old. There is no benefit or incentive to delay Social Security payouts past this age. A worker may choose to delay Social Security benefits to gain a higher benefit amount. Based on a 12-month rate of increase past full retirement age, workers born in 1943 and after will receive an 8% increase if delayed benefit payout is chosen. Keep in mind that Social Security benefits are not retroactively paid for any month prior to full retirement age or more than 6 months in the past should a worker opt to delay benefit payments. If a worker retires before the age of 70 but chose to delay Social Security benefits, a portion of the delayed retirement credits earned will not be applied until the first January following retirement.