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What Are the Most Popular Ages to Claim Social Security?

By Christy Bieber - Mar 8, 2020 at 9:45AM

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You may be surprised to find out that the timing for initiating Social Security is different depending on your gender.

When it comes to your Social Security benefits, you have a lot of choices regarding when to start getting those monthly checks. In fact, most retirees could begin getting benefits as early as their 62nd birthday or could opt to wait and claim benefits any time up to age 70. Those who file for benefits earlier will get reduced amounts in each check than people who wait, though.

The decision of when to first claim Social Security benefits is a very personal one, as it depends on many factors. These include your job situation, the amount of savings you have, when you want to retire, and whether you have health issues that could affect your lifespan. Admittedly, for many people it's a tough choice

If you're trying to decide, or you're not yet near retirement and you want to get an idea of when you might claim benefits, it can be helpful to know the most popular age to start Social Security. 

Older couple looking at paperwork with financial advisor.

Image source: Getty Images.

The most popular ages to start Social Security benefits

According to the Center for Retirement Research, the most popular age to claim benefits is 62, while claiming at full retirement age (FRA) is the second most popular. As the table below shows, retirees are less likely to claim between 62 and FRA than to first start benefits somewhere between full retirement age and age 70.

Age

Percent of women first claiming
benefits at that age

Percent of men first claiming
benefits at that age

62

40%

35%

63

8%

7%

64

8%

7%

65 to FRA

12%

13%

FRA

16%

23%

FRA to 69

9%

11%

70 or later

7%

5%

FRA = Full Retirement Age. Data source: Center for Retirement Research 

It's likely 62 is such a popular age to start benefits because when health issues, lack of jobs, or family care responsibilities hit late in life, many people end up simply claiming Social Security as soon as possible to enable their exit from the working world. FRA is also popular because you can claim at that designated age and receive your standard benefit amount without worrying about how claiming early or late affects your lifetime income.  

How does your age when you claim benefits affect you?

While 62 is an incredibly popular age to start your benefits, claiming this early will forever reduce the amount of your monthly checks compared with the amount you'd have received had you waited. Social Security beneficiaries see a reduction of 5/9 of 1% for each month prior to FRA in the first 36 months and an additional 5/12 of 1% per month if benefits are claimed more than three years before FRA. These small increases add up to about a 6.7% reduction each of the first three years and a 5% reduction for prior years. 

Waiting until FRA enables retirees to avoid this benefits reduction, which earlier filers face. But some people choose to wait even longer because delayed retirement credits -- earnable up until age 70 -- can result in a benefits increase of 2/3 of 1% per month or about 8% per year. These credits make waiting a smart move if the goal is to maximize monthly income, although 70 isn't a particularly popular age to claim because many people don't want to wait that long to retire and end up needing their benefits to make leaving the workforce possible. 

Make a smart choice about when you start your benefits 

As you can see, the age when you start your benefits can have an effect on the size of your Social Security checks. And it's the factor that you have the most control over when it comes to how much income Social Security provides to you.

If you're nearing retirement, you need to make a fully informed choice about whether to claim a smaller benefit early or hold out to wait for a larger benefit. And if you're far away from claiming, you should be realistic about the most likely age you'll start your benefits so you can get an idea of what Social Security is likely to do for you in your later years. Knowing that 62 is such a popular age can be helpful because if you know you're likely to claim early, you may want to save more money. Then your supplementary income can combine with your benefits to give you enough money to live comfortably as a retiree. 

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