Wealth Management

As more Americans reach 65 than ever, here’s what to know about your Social Security retirement age

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The baby boom generation begins to reach “peak 65” in 2024, with more than 11,200 individuals expected to hit that age milestone every day over the next few years.

Yet members of that cohort may be surprised to find out 65 is not their Social Security full retirement age — the point when they may receive 100% of the benefits they earned.

Changes enacted in 1983 have gradually pushed the full Social Security retirement age up from 65 to 67 over a 40-year period.

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“For most of the people retiring today, their full retirement age is somewhere between 66 and 67,” said Joe Elsasser, a certified financial planner and president of Covisum, a Social Security claiming software company.

Notably, everyone who puts off claiming Social Security retirement benefits until age 70 stands to get the biggest benefit payments, regardless of their full retirement age.

How to find your Social Security full retirement age

If you were born between 1943 and 1954, your full retirement age is 66.

If you were born in 1960 or later, your full retirement age is 67.

The full Social Security retirement age gradually increases from 66 to 67 for people born between those years.

Social Security full retirement age

Year of birth Social Security full retirement age
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and two months
1956 66 and four months
1957 66 and six months
1958 66 and eight months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67
Source: Social Security Administration

For some people, this can come as a surprise, because they may still confuse their Social Security full retirement age with the Medicare eligibility age of 65, according to Elsasser.

Others are familiar with their full retirement age because they have been seeing it on their Social Security statement over the years, he said.

Social Security statements can be accessed online by creating a My Social Security account.

How Medicare can trip up retirees in other ways

It’s not just the Medicare eligibility age that can trip up prospective Social Security retirement beneficiaries, Elsasser noted.

Retirees may be tempted to sign up for Social Security when they become eligible for Medicare at 65 so they do not have to write checks to cover their premiums. Those payments for Medicare Part B — which covers doctor’s visits, outpatient care and preventive services — are typically deducted directly from Social Security benefit checks.

But tying those decisions to each other will result in permanently reduced Social Security benefits, since that would be before full retirement age.

“You really should make those decisions independently of each other,” Elsasser said.

Of course, not everyone can or should delay claiming Social Security retirement benefits. The earliest eligibility age is 62, and experts say claiming then may make sense for individuals in some circumstances, such as if they have a poor health prognosis.

By waiting until full retirement age, you can receive up to 100% of the benefits you’ve earned.

If you delay claiming past your full retirement age and up to age 70, you stand to get an 8% benefit increase per year.

A better way to think about it is that each month you delay is worth two-thirds of 1%, Elsasser said. Therefore, even delays of small increments can help increase your monthly checks over your lifetime.

The full retirement age may be subject to go up again, depending on whether Congress decides to include that change to shore up Social Security’s funding woes.

However, such a change would likely affect only prospective retirees ages 55 and younger, Elsasser predicted, and isn’t necessarily a sure thing, as life expectancy in the U.S. is no longer accelerating.

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