2017 brings changes to ‘full retirement age’

Story by DAVID BAIER
Public Affairs Specialist at the Billings Social Security Office

Every worker’s dream is having a secure retirement to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Social Security aims to help you secure today and tomorrow. Part of that commitment is ensuring you have the most up-to-date information when you make your retirement decisions.

“Full retirement age” refers to the age when a person can claim their Social Security benefits without any reduction, even if they are still working part or full time. In other words, you don’t actually need to retire from your work to claim your full benefits. Also note that waiting until you’re 70, if you can, will bring you a higher monthly benefit. The choices you make will affect any benefit your spouse or children can receive on your record, too. If you claim benefits early, it will reduce their potential benefit as well as yours.

As the bells rang in a new year, they also rang in changes in 2017 for people considering claiming Social Security retirement benefits. For people who turn 62 in 2017 (i.e., those born between Jan. 2, 1955, and Jan. 1, 1956), full retirement age is 66 and two months.

Full retirement age was 65 for many years. However, due to a law passed by Congress in 1983, it has been gradually increasing, beginning with people born in 1938 or later, until it reaches 67 for people born after 1959.

You can learn more about the full retirement age and find out how to look up your own at socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/retirechart.html.

There are some things you should remember when you’re thinking about retirement.

You may start receiving Social Security benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70.
The longer you wait, the higher your monthly benefit will be. Your monthly benefits will
be reduced permanently if you start them any time before full retirement age. For example,
if you start receiving benefits in 2017 at age 62, your monthly benefit amount will
be reduced permanently by about 26 percent.

On the other hand, if you wait to start receiving your benefits until after your full
retirement age, then your monthly benefits will be permanently increased. The amount of
this increase is two-thirds of one percent for each month — or 8 percent for each year —
that you delay receiving them until you reach age 70.

If you decide to receive benefits before you reach full retirement age, you should also
understand how continuing to work can affect your benefits. The Social Security office
may withhold or reduce your benefits if your annual earnings exceed a certain amount.
However, every month we withhold or reduce increases your future benefits. That’s
because at your full retirement age we will recalculate your benefit amount to give you
credit for the months in which we reduced or withheld benefits due to your excess earnings.
In effect, it’s as if you hadn’t filed for those months. You can learn more at
socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html.

If you die, your retirement date can affect the benefit amount your surviving loved
ones receive. If you started receiving retirement benefits before full retirement age, we
cannot pay the full amount to your survivors. Their benefit amount will be based on your
reduced benefits.

You can learn more by visiting the Social Security Retirement Planner at socialsecurity.gov/planners/retire.