Full Retirement Age – How does it effect Social Security Retirement Benefits?

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Full Retirement Age, sometimes referred to as Normal Retirement Age or the abbreviation “FRA”, is the age at which an individual who has qualified for Social Security Retirement Benefits becomes eligible to receive their full or un-reduced Social Security Retirement Benefit based upon their own earnings history.  For individuals eligible for spousal benefits, either from their current spouse or any qualifying ex-spouse, Full Retirement Age is the age at which an individual becomes eligible to receive their un-reduced Social Security Retirement Benefit based upon their spouses, or ex-spouses, age and earnings history.

Whew, that was a mouthful! Thanks for reading my article.

Alright, now let me explain what that means and how it is applied.

An individual’s Full Retirement Age in the context of Social Security Retirement Benefits is defined by the individual’s year of birth.  Below is the table of the applicable Full Retirement Age by year of birth:

 

Year of Birth Full Retirement Age
1937 or earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943 – 1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67

 

One item to note are that if an individual is born on January 1st then they should use the previous year.  For example, if the date of birth is January 1, 1957, the Full Retirement Age is 66 years and 4 months; whereas if the date of birth is January 2, 1957, the Full Retirement Age is 66 years and 6 months.

So now we know what an individual’s Full Retirement Age is, but how does that affect their Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Does Full Retirement Age affect when an individual can begin receiving their Social Security Retirement Benefits?

No it does not.  Every individual who has qualified to receive Social Security Retirement Benefits based on their own, or a living spouse or living ex-spouse’s, earnings history can begin receiving them at age 62 regardless of their Full Retirement Age.  Eligible widows and widowers can begin receiving their Social Security Retirement Benefits based upon their deceased spouse’s earnings history as early as age 60, or age 50 if disabled, regardless of their Full Retirement Age.

Does Full Retirement Age affect the amount of an individual’s Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Yes it does.  If an individual begins receiving Social Security Retirement Benefits at any time other than at their Full Retirement Age, the amount of the benefit is decreased if the election is prior to their Full Retirement Age and is increased if the election is after their Full Retirement Age.

The explanations and examples as to how much the decrease or increase in benefit amount is the subject of an upcoming post.

Photo by Aaron Burden

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