A Social Security benefit form with three red question marks in the center.
May 14, 2014 | by Jim Saulnier, CFP®
When Can I Claim My Social Security Retirement Benefit?

When you're done reading, be sure to listen to our audio blog below!

Simply put, you can claim your Social Security retirement benefit any time after you turn 62.  However, since this is Social Security (which is controlled by an oversized bureaucracy), it’s not quite that simple.

When Are You 62?

If you want to receive your first Social Security retirement benefit check as soon as you turn 62, the Social Security Administration (SSA) does not consider you eligible for this benefit until the month you will be 62 years old throughout the entire month!  Suppose you were born on January 12th. Obviously you are not 62 throughout the entire month, so you must wait until the following month, (February), to receive your first payment.  However, if you were born on January 1st, (A New Year’s Baby!) you would be considered 62 throughout the entire month, allowing you to collect your first payment check in January.

What If Your Birthday Is On the Second Of the Month?

Simple enough, right? Well, there is a little quirky rule that applies to someone born on the second of any month.  Let’s pretend your birthday is January 2nd. Common sense would dictate you are not 62 for the entire month of January, so you would have to wait until February to collect your first check. Well, the SSA has a nice birthday surprise for you! Thanks to a lawsuit filed against the US government in the latter half of the 19th century (That’s the 1800’s!) a person is considered a full year older the day before their birthday.  Therefore, under Social Security rules, you are technically 62 for the entire month if you were born on the first or second of any month! What does this all mean? Well, simply put, people born on the first or second of any month will receive one check more than everyone else!

Do You Have To Claim At 62?

So does this mean everyone turning 62 must immediately claim their Social Security retirement benefits? No!  The rules state Social Security retirement benefits generally can’t be received before age 62, but the rules don’t force you to file and claim them then. In fact you have some flexibility on when to file for your benefits.  The longer you wait past age 62, the more money you will receive.  If you wait until your Full Retirement Age (FRA) you could receive approximately 25% more benefits than claiming at age 62. Delaying your benefits past your FRA allows you to earn additional benefits called “delayed earnings credits” that could add 8% annually to your FRA benefit. Should you delay to age 70 that amounts to 32% more lifetime income than your FRA benefits!

Choosing when to claim your Social Security benefits can be tricky. Whether you choose to claim them beginning right at age 62, or to delay until your FRA or even beyond, understanding the basics of Social Security claiming rules may help you choose a claiming strategy that is right for you.  Listen to our audio blog as we expand upon these basic concepts of when you are eligible to claim your Social Security retirement benefits!

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