The Social Security Retirement Age

Source: Wayne Liou, Congressional Research Service, CRS Report, R44670, October 28, 2016

The full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which workers can claim full Social Security retired worker benefits. The size of the monthly benefits is affected by when the worker claims benefits. The worker’s age when claiming benefits is compared with the FRA, and adjustments are made depending on the number of months before or after the FRA the worker claims benefits. Adjustments for claiming before or after the FRA are intended to result in similar total lifetime benefits, regardless of when the worker claims benefits: retiring before the FRA results in a reduction in monthly benefits (to take into account the longer expected period of benefit receipt) and retiring after the FRA results in an increase in monthly benefits (to take into account the shorter expected period of benefit receipt. The FRA was 65 at the inception of Social Security, but has been gradually increased upwards, to 67 for those born in 1960 or later. Claiming benefits past age 70 does not increase the monthly benefits.

The earliest age retired worker beneficiaries may begin receiving benefits is called the early eligibility age (EEA). The current EEA is 62 for retired workers and their spouses; retirement benefits cannot be claimed by workers or spouses prior to 62. Although workers cannot receive retirement benefits prior to the EEA, dependents could be eligible for benefits earlier than age 62 under certain circumstances. In 2015, approximately 40% of new retired worker beneficiaries claimed benefits at age 62. More than half of beneficiaries who claimed retired worker benefits in 2015 claimed before the FRA.