An official website of the United States Government
  • Home
  • Older Americans

Older Americans

5 things to consider before you collect your Social Security benefits


If you’re approaching retirement, you’re probably thinking about when to start collecting your Social Security retirement benefits.

To help you make a more informed decision about when to claim, we created a new tool called “Planning for Retirement”. You’ll see how your claiming age affects your benefits and get tips relevant to your situation, which can help you start the conversation about your retirement needs and goals. We encourage you to try it out!

In addition to using the tool, consider these five tips to help you plan ahead and make the best decision for yourself and your family:

1. Know your “full retirement age”

The age at which you get your full retirement benefits from Social Security ranges from 66 to 67 depending on the year you were born. Claiming before your full retirement age leads to a permanent decrease in monthly benefits, while claiming after leads to a permanent increase. The full retirement age is the age at which you can start working and collecting simultaneously without facing a reduction in benefits.

Did you know? One recent survey found that seven in ten consumers believe that 65 is their full retirement age. In fact, the full retirement age actually varies depending on the year in which they were born.

2. Don’t claim early if you don’t have to.

Allowing your benefits to grow for one year makes a difference in your benefits. You’ll get an additional five to eight percent in monthly benefits for every year you wait to claim after age 62, maxing out at age 70. A higher monthly benefit could be important when you are older, which is when Social Security may play a more central role in your retirement income. At that point, your other sources of income and savings may be depleted and your health-related costs may be higher.

Did you know? You could see as much as a 30 percent reduction in monthly benefits by claiming before your full retirement age; whereas you can get as much as a 32 percent permanent increase (8 percent per year) by claiming after your full retirement age – up to age 70.

3. Know your retirement budget

Start with a simple budget that accounts for your income and expenses. Consider both your actual income and expenses before retirement and your expected income and expenses after you retire. This can help you understand how a reduced or increased benefit will affect your ability to meet your needs in retirement. In addition, this kind of budgeting can help you decide if you should reduce your expenses and pay off any debts before retiring.

Did you know? Retirement years may be more expensive than retirees expect, as many will incur increased health and housing expenses in their later years, and many carry mortgages and other debts into retirement.

4. Keep working if you can

Staying in the workforce – full or part time – for even one or two additional years can earn you an even bigger increase in your Social Security benefit by replacing years with low or no earnings from your earnings record. Working longer also gives you more time to save for retirement.

Did you know? Many people (46%) believe that their benefits are based on how long they work as well as their pay during only the last five years of employment, when in fact they are based on their highest 35 years of earnings.

5. Consider your spouse’s long-term needs

Your decision of when to claim your Social Security benefits could affect the benefits your spouse will receive after you die. Because surviving spouses receive the higher of the two spouses’ benefits, it often makes sense for higher earning spouses to claim at or after their full retirement age to get their full or highest possible benefit. This can minimize the reduction in income a surviving spouse may experience. Talk to your spouse about your claiming options so you can make this important decision together.

Did you know? On average, a married couple reaching age 65 can expect that one spouse will outlive the other for about 10 years or more.

Do you need more information to help you decide when to claim Social Security? Before you claim, check out “Planning for Retirement”:

To get more facts about Social Security, check out our factsheet.

The Retirement Tool is also available in Spanish

Before you claim Social Security, explore our new Planning for Retirement tool


There is a good chance that you or someone you know may benefit from our new “Planning for Retirement” tool, which we created to help consumers approaching retirement make an informed decision about when to claim their Social Security benefits.

Here are three reasons why you should check out “Planning for Retirement”.

1. See how the age at which you claim affects your Social Security retirement benefits

Over one-third of consumers claim their benefits at age 62, but your monthly payments can increase by as much as 75% if you wait and claim at age 70 instead of 62.

See your estimated benefits on an interactive graph and find out how to increase them.

If your expected monthly benefit at age 62 is $750, your expected monthly benefit at age 70 is $1320. Source: Social Security Administration

2. Make a better decision with information relevant to your situation

Everyone’s situation is different. Whether you’re married, planning on working in your 60s, or whether you have retirement savings can influence your decision of when to begin claiming your Social Security benefits. After using “Planning for Retirement,” we hope you’ll be able to make a more informed decision based on your situation.

3. Start the conversation about retirement and take action

Whether you find it easy or difficult to talk about money with your family, we provide a tool that can help you begin this conversation and think about the factors that matter when making this decision. It also shows simple action steps that will help you in your retirement planning journey.

Ready to get started? Check out “Planning for Retirement” today:

And if you enjoy it, please share it!

For more about the importance of Social Security’s claiming age for your financial security, see our issue brief.

The Retirement Tool is also available in Spanish

Save the date, Washington, D.C.!


Join us for an event about retirement planning with the Social Security Administration (SSA) at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.

The event will take place on Thursday, November 12 at 10:00 a.m. EST. The event will be held at:

Brookings Institution
Saul/Zilkha Room
1775 Massachusetts Ave, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20001

The event will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray and Acting Commissioner of Social Security, Carolyn W. Colvin, followed by an expert panel discussion about retirement planning.

This event is open to the public, but limited space is available and an RSVP is required. You may RSVP at

If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request or email

You can also follow along by watching a live streaming video. We will share a link to the streaming video before the event begins.

See you there!

Managing Someone Else’s Money: Virginia


Managing Someone Else’s Money: Virginia graphic

Have you ever been asked to manage money or property for a loved one who is unable to pay bills or make financial decisions? Millions of Americans are facing this responsibility, which can be very overwhelming. But it’s also a great opportunity to help someone you care about, and protect them from scams and fraud.

Virginia residents: There’s a guide for you!

To help financial caregivers all over the country, we released the Managing Someone Else’s Money guides in 2013.

But now we’re providing additional help: state-specific guides and resources for people managing money for older relatives and friends. Today we are releasing a set of several Managing Someone Else’s Money guides specific to the state of Virginia. These state guides will make it easier for caregivers to follow Virginia’s unique rules and to find help close to home.
The Virginia guides are easy-to-understand booklets for different kinds of caregivers.

See our guides for:

The guides help you to be a financial caregiver in three ways:

  • They walk you through your duties—and give you tips on Virginia laws and procedures.
  • They tell you how to watch out for scams and financial exploitation, and what to do if your loved one is a victim.
  • They tell you where you can go for help from agencies and service providers in Virginia and elsewhere.

You can also order free print copies (including bulk orders) online.

Following the release of the Virginia guides, the Bureau has plans to follow up with similar guides for five other states: Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, and Oregon.

Also, we’ll make it easy for legal and aging experts in other states to adapt the guides for their states, by providing tips and templates for doing so.

We’re working hard to empower older Americans to have a secure financial future. Sometimes family members, caregivers and others in the community must pitch in. We’re here to help you, too.