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This Is the Perfect Age to Claim Social Security

Key Points

  • Social Security can be claimed between ages 62 and 70.
  • The age when you claim benefits affects the amount you receive.
  • Many factors go into determining the best time to claim benefits.

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When should you start your Social Security benefit?

Retirees have a choice to make about when to file for Social Security. Seniors become eligible for retirement income as soon as they turn 62 but can also file for benefits any time between ages 62 and 70. 

There are pros and cons to starting Social Security at different times, so three Motley Fool retirement experts have each made the case for why the perfect time to claim is 62, full retirement age, or age 70.

Here's why each of these different ages could be the ideal time for seniors to start their checks --  under the right circumstances. 

Adult sitting at kitchen table using calculator and laptop.

Image source: Getty Images.

Age 62

Christy Bieber: Starting your checks at 62 results in a reduction in your standard benefit because you get hit with early-filing penalties. These lower your monthly income by a small percentage each month, which adds up to a 6.7% reduction for each of the first three years you claim early and a 5% reduction for any prior years. 

Despite early-filing penalties, claiming Social Security benefits as soon as you become eligible to do so makes good sense for several reasons.

First and foremost, you may need Social Security to be able to retire. If you get to leave the workforce years earlier because your benefits make that possible, you'll have more time to enjoy life. Being able to quit sooner may be well worth taking a hit to the amount of your benefit. 

You may also prefer to get your money when you're still young enough to enjoy it. Receiving larger benefits later in life may not do you as much good if serious health issues have developed and you can't actually do much with your money. 

Aside from these advantages, 62 may be the perfect age to claim Social Security because you don't need to worry about whether you'll live long enough to make up for missing years of income. While it's true that waiting delivers a higher monthly benefit, it can take years for the extra money in your checks to make up for the fact you missed out on benefits altogether due to a delayed claim.

Full retirement age

Maurie Backman: What if you could claim Social Security at a time when your benefits won't get slashed, but you also won't have to wait too long to get your hands on them? The answer could boil down to filing for Social Security at full retirement age, otherwise known as FRA.

FRA isn't universal. It's based on the year you were born. If that year is 1960 or later, then your FRA is 67. Those born earlier have an FRA of 66 or 66 and a certain number of months.

Claiming Social Security at FRA means getting the full benefit you're entitled to based on your wage history. When you file for Social Security before FRA, you do get your money sooner. But you also face a reduction in benefits that's generally permanent, resulting in less ongoing retirement income for you.

Now there's also the option to delay your filing past FRA and boost your benefits in the process. Clearly, getting more money on an ongoing basis is a good thing. But let's face it. It may be hard enough to wait until age 67 (or close to it) to get your hands on your benefits. And so waiting even longer may not be something you want to do.

Claiming benefits at FRA is a great middle ground solution. And it's one you may want to consider as you plan out your retirement.

Age 70

Katie Brockman: Waiting until age 70 to file for Social Security benefits may not be the most appealing thought to many workers who are eager to retire. However, there's one big reason to consider delaying benefits: You'll receive significantly more money each month.

By delaying benefits past your full retirement age (FRA), you'll receive your full benefit amount plus a bonus each month. The longer you wait -- up until age 70 -- the more you'll collect each month. You can wait until after age 70 to file, but you won't receive any additional money in benefits past this age.

If your FRA is 67, you'll receive your full benefit amount plus an extra 24% per month if you wait until age 70 to claim. If your FRA is between ages 66 and 67, you'll receive between 24% and 32% extra each month on top of your full benefit amount.

Waiting until age 70 to claim could result in hundreds of dollars more each month, which can go a long way in retirement. If your savings are falling short, delaying benefits could be a smart move to increase your retirement income.

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