The most popular age for seniors to sign up for Social Security is 62, namely because that's the earliest they can claim benefits. Meanwhile, many seniors sign up for Social Security at 65 in conjunction with enrolling in Medicare.
There are several ages you can choose from when it comes to filing for benefits. But you may want to sign up at full retirement age (FRA) -- whatever that means for you.
What's your FRA?
Let's get one thing out of the way: If you don't know your FRA for Social Security purposes, it's time to commit that number to memory.
Your FRA is when you're entitled to receive your full Social Security benefit based on your personal earnings history. That age hinges on the year you were born, as follows:
If You Were Born In:
Your FRA Is:
66 and 2 months
66 and 4 months
66 and 6 months
66 and 8 months
66 and 10 months
1960 or later
As mentioned earlier, you can sign up for benefits as early as age 62, but if you do, you'll slash them on a permanent basis. And you can also delay your Social Security claim beyond FRA and boost your benefits in the process up until you turn 70. But claiming benefits at your precise FRA might really work to your advantage.
For one thing, by filing for benefits at your FRA and not sooner, you'll avoid a reduction that could really hurt you financially. Many seniors enter retirement with little in the way of savings, so they end up relying heavily on Social Security to pay the bills. Filing at FRA means you won't slash what could be a pivotal income stream.
At the same time, it may not be realistic for you to delay your Social Security filing beyond FRA. For many people, holding off on claiming benefits means working longer, and there are factors outside your control that could prevent you from being able to do that.
Your health could start to fail as you age, or you could be downsized out of a job. While you may want to grow your benefits by delaying your filing, you may not get that choice.
How to score a higher benefit at FRA
Delaying your Social Security claim beyond FRA could leave you with a higher monthly benefit for life. But if you'd rather play it safe and plan to claim Social Security at FRA, that doesn't mean you can't grow your benefit another way.
For one thing, you can push yourself to boost your job skills so you land more raises and promotions. The more money you earn, the higher a retirement benefit you stand to collect.
Also, income you earn on top of your main job counts toward calculating your Social Security benefit, provided you pay taxes on that gig. So picking up extra work could benefit you not just in the near term, but in the future, too.
What's the right choice for you?
There are plenty of seniors who insist that claiming Social Security at 62 is the best move, while others are convinced that delaying benefits all the way to age 70 is the smartest move. But at the end of the day, the decision to claim benefits is a personal one, so rather than go with the masses, do what's best for you.
There are plenty of good reasons to sign up for benefits at your exact FRA. But if you decide to go another route, there's nothing wrong with that, provided you've really taken the time to think things through.
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