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1. What are my Social Security retirement options?

Retiring at full retirement age – to retire, you must have earned 40 credits. See the table below to determine your full retirement age based on your year of birth.

  • 1937 or earlier
  • 1938
  • 1939
  • 1940
  • 1941
  • 1942
  • 1943-1954
  • 1955
  • 1956
  • 1957
  • 1958
  • 1959
  • 1960 or later

* Refer to the previous year if you were born January 1st.

1a. Can I retire early?

Retiring early – If you’ve earned 40 credits, you can start receiving Social Security benefits at 62 or at any month between 62 and full retirement age.  However, your benefits will be permanently reduced based on the number of months you receive benefits before you reach full retirement age.

1b. How does retiring early affect the amount of benefits I am paid?

If your full retirement age is 66, they will be reduced:

  • 25% at age 62;
  • 20% at age 63;
  • 13 ½ % at age 64; or
  • 6 2/3 % at age 65.

1c. Can I receive SSA retirement benefits while I work?

Yes, you can receive retirement benefits while you work – you can work while receiving monthly benefits.  And it could mean a higher benefit that can be more important to you later in your life and increase future benefits your family and survivors could receive.

1d. How often will the SSA review my earnings record?

The SSA will review your record each year to see whether the additional earnings will increase your monthly benefit.  If there’s an increase, the SSA will send you a notice of your new benefit amount.  Earnings in or after the month you reach full retirement age won’t reduce your Social Security benefits.  However, if you receive benefits before reaching your full retirement age, your benefit amount will be reduced, unless you have been determined disabled by the SSA.

  • In the year you reach full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for each $3 you earn above the annual limit (for example, $36,120 in 2008) until the month you reach full retirement age.  After that, your benefits will not be reduced, no matter how much you earn.
  • In the years before you reach full retirement age, $1 will be deducted for every $2 you earn above the limit (for example, $13,560 in 2008).

If you lose benefits because of work, your benefit will be increased later to account for the months you didn’t receive benefits before reaching full retirement age.

1e. Should I delay retirement?

Delaying Retirement – you may decide to continue working beyond your full retirement age without choosing to receive benefits.  If so, your benefit will be increased by a certain percentage for each month you don’t receive benefits between your full retirement age and age 70.  This table shows the rate your benefits will increase if you delay retiring:

Year of Birth

  • 1937-1938
  • 1939-1940
  • 1941-1942
  • 1943 or later

1f. How and when do I apply for Social Security retirement benefits?

When applying for Social Security Retirement Benefits and Medicare, it’s best to contact Social Security three months before the month in which you want to receive benefits to discuss the options that are available to you.  In some cases, your choice of retirement month could mean additional benefits for you and your family.

Even if you don’t plan to receive benefits because you’ll continue working, or if you have filed for disability, you should sign up for Medicare three months before reaching age 65 regardless of when you reach full retirement age.  Otherwise, your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) could be delayed and you could be charged a higher premium.

2. Can I apply for Social Security retirement benefits online?

Yes. You can apply online at or by calling 1-800-772-1213 between 7a.m. and 7p.m., Monday through Friday.  If you are deaf or hard of hearing, call our TTY number 1-800-325-0778, between 7a.m. and 7p.m., Monday through Friday, to file your claim.  You also can apply at any Social Security office.  To avoid having to wait, you may want to call first to make an appointment.

2a. What things and information should I have handy for my interview or SSR application?

Be sure to have these items handy: your Social Security number, birth certificate, W-2 forms or self-employment tax return for last year, and your bank name and account number so your benefits can be deposited directly into your account.

In addition to the information listed above, you will need:

  • Your military discharge papers if you had military service;
  • Your spouse’s birth certificate and Social Security number and your marriage certificate if he or she is applying for benefits; and
  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or lawful immigration status if you were not born in the United States.

You will need to mail or deliver original documents or copies that have been certified by the issuing office to the Social Security office.

3. What if I need more information on my retirement benefits?

You also have options for getting information about Social Security and retirement.  Visit the “Plan your Retirement” section of the SSA’s website to estimate your Social Security benefits, find answers to frequently asked questions about Social Security, learn about factors that could affect your benefits, and much more.  You can get information about Social Security by visiting a local Social Security office or by calling 1-800-772-1213

You can print these publications from the SSA website:

  • Retirement Benefits (publication No. 05-10035)
  • Your Retirement Benefits: How It Is Figured (publication No. 05-10070)