If you are like most people, you'll pay Social Security taxes throughout your career. But when can you begin to benefit from Social Security?
If you were born before 1938
If you were born before 1938, full retirement benefits are available at age 65, with reduced benefits available as early as age 62. The age at which full benefits are paid will rise in the future. In 2003, the full retirement age went up to 67 for those born in and after 1960.
If you retire before your full retirement age
The age at which you can retire and receive full benefits is known as your full retirement age. The full retirement age is 65 for people born before 1938, and 66 for those born in 1943–1954. For those born in the period 1955–1959, full retirement age increases from 66 and two months for 1955, to 66 and 10 months for 1959. Full retirement age is 67 for people born in 1960 or later.
If you choose to retire before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced (the reduction is currently five-ninths of one percent for every month under your full retirement age). In other words, the closer you are to full retirement age when benefits start, the smaller the reduction in benefits.
If you continue working in retirement
If you are younger than full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $2 in earnings you have above the annual limit ($15,720 in 2015). In the year you reach your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced $1 for every $3 you earn over a different limit ($41,880 in 2015) until the month you reach full retirement age. Once you reach your full retirement age, you will receive your full Social Security benefit payments, no matter how much you earn.
It is important to note that the above-mentioned benefit reductions are not lost forever. Your benefit will be increased at your full retirement age to account for benefits withheld due to earlier earnings. Note, too, that if you retire later than full retirement age, you will get added benefits because of additional earnings and special credits.
Your family members and benefits
When you die, if you were eligible for either retirement or disability benefits, family members may also be able to receive benefits. Your spouse can receive up to 50% of your benefit amount, and your children can receive up to 75% of your benefit amount.
Those who may be able to receive a benefit upon your death include the following:
Getting your benefits
To get your benefits, you will need to supply proof of eligibility, such as a birth certificate and your most recent W2 form.
The Social Security Administration has calculators that can help you estimate your future benefits on their website.
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