You're eligible to collect Social Security at age 62, but that's not always the best time to start taking it. You'll be penalized for taking Social Security before your full retirement age (66 or 67) and you can earn an even larger benefit if you wait until age 70 to start collecting.
When Can You File for Social Security?
The earliest you can apply for Social Security benefits is at age 61 and nine months, and you can expect to receive your first payment four months later—the month after your birthday. Typically, Social Security benefits are paid the month after they are due or must be specified.
For example, if you turn 62 on Dec. 15, then your first full month of eligibility is January, and your payment for that month will arrive in February. If you have already reached age 62 and met all other eligibility criteria, then you may begin collecting benefits in the same month as you apply if you specify, although your first payment still would not arrive until the following month.
- You're eligible for Social Security at age 62, but you'll pay a penalty for not waiting until your full retirement age to begin collecting.
- You can boost your benefits by waiting until you're past your full retirement age to apply, and can continue to get a boost for every year you delay up until age 70.
- The youngest age when you can apply is 61 years and nine months old.
- While it typically takes several weeks to process a new application, some may be approved in the same month in which you apply.
Should I Wait Until Full Retirement Age to Apply for Social Security?
Receiving Social Security at age 62 means that you will receive a reduced payment compared with waiting for full retirement age. Full retirement age is 66 for people born between 1943 and 1954, and retirement age phases up to age 67 for people born in 1960 or after.
If you were born in 1960 or later, you'll be penalized 30% for taking Social Security before full retirement age, and all reductions are permanent. If you delay taking your benefits past full retirement age, then you receive an 8% increase for each full year that you do so, up until you reach 70, at which point the increases stop.
Every individual can calculate their own “full retirement age” based on their specific birthday to help you consider how you can lock in the maximum amount of Social Security benefits.
The amount that your monthly Social Security benefit increases for each year that you delay taking benefits past full retirement age (until you reach age 70, at which point the increases stop).
The Application Process
Applying for Social Security benefits is a fairly simple process. Applications can be submitted online, over the phone, or in person at your local Social Security office. Appointments are strongly encouraged.
The most convenient way to apply is through the online platform found on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website. The application itself takes about 10 to 30 minutes and can be saved at any point for future completion. Also, this application can be used to apply for Medicare.
It is generally recommended that you apply a few months in advance of when you would like to start receiving the checks. To ensure a quick and easy application process, it is best to have all the necessary information on hand before beginning. This can include but is not necessarily limited to the birth and marriage dates of you and your spouse, your Social Security number, proof of citizenship, tax information, employment history, military records, and bank account information for direct deposit.
Requests for Documents
Sometimes there are requests for documents, including original birth certificates, marriage licenses, and tax returns. An agent usually contacts you if any clarification or additional documentation is needed. An agent may also let you know if you are eligible to receive more money through another person’s account, such as a spouse, and if anyone else is eligible to receive benefits under your account.
Once you have completed your application and supplied all requested information, you are given a receipt for your records and a confirmation number that you can use to check the status of your application online after submission. You can also follow up over the phone or in person at your local Social Security office. Depending on your situation and what documentation may be required, your application may be approved within the same month as when you apply.
In addition, benefit payment schedules are now dictated by date of birth. For those with birthdays from the first to the 10th of the month, payments will be made on the second Wednesday of every month. For those born from the 11th to the 20th, payment is made on the third Wednesday of the month. For those born from the 21st to the 31st, payments are made on the fourth Wednesday of the month.
This means that if you turn 62 on Dec. 15, then your first payment will arrive on the third Wednesday of the following February. If your birthday is Dec. 15 and you are already over age 62, then your first payment should arrive on the third Wednesday of the month following the month when you apply. If you’re already on Social Security or receive both Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments, then you may receive them on a different date.