Make Informed Decisions Regarding Social Security

If you’re like many Americans, you’ve worked and contributed to the Social Security system for most of your life. Now, it’s time to decide when to start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits.

It’s an important decision that will impact the income you receive throughout retirement. The decision about when to start can also affect the income and lifestyle of a surviving spouse. To help make an informed decision, you’ll want to consider a number of key factors described in this brochure.

It’s also important to seek the help of a financial professional. After all, Social Security will likely only serve as one source of your income in retirement. A financial professional can help you review your overall financial situation and develop a comprehensive strategy to help integrate your Social Security benefits with other sources of retirement income.

The Big Question: When to Begin Taking Social Security

The first step is determining your Full Retirement Age. 

Your Full Retirement Age (FRA) is the age when you qualify for 100% of your Social Security benefits (known as your Primary Insurance Amount). Your FRA is based on your year of birth as shown below.
When you’re ready to start collecting benefits, you should apply for Social Security no more than four months before the date you want your benefits to start. 

Social security full retirement age (fra) chart by birth year


If you start collecting Social Security benefits and then change your mind about your choice of the start date, you may be able to withdraw your claim and re-apply at a future date, provided you do so within 12 months of your original application for benefits. All benefits (including spousal and dependent benefits) must be repaid and you may only withdraw your application for benefits once in your lifetime.

Filing for Your Social Security Benefits

Your Three Main Options:

You generally have three main options when it comes to choosing when to start collecting your benefit. This is often referred to as your Social Security “filing strategy.” As you can see below, each has advantages and disadvantages.

Social security chart highlighting 3 social security claiming strategies

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