Retiring a few years early, at age 62, probably sounds pretty appealing even if your golden years are still decades away. Social Security provides benefits that will form an important part of your retirement income. Understanding how these benefits work is important, because the age at which you start receiving them makes a big difference in the size of your monthly payments.
For Social Security purposes full retirement age, currently 66, is scheduled to gradually increase to 67 for people born in 1960 and later years. However, you can start retirement benefits as early as age 62. If you do, the amount of the monthly benefit will be permanently reduced. You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for 40 quarters, or a total of 10 years, to be eligible for benefits. If you don’t meet this requirement, you may be able to receive benefits based on your spouse’s eligibility.
The size of the monthly payment you get when you start receiving Social Security benefits early depends on the amount you would receive if you wait to start benefits until you reach full retirement age. The reduction is five-ninths of 1 percent for each month you start benefits early up to 36 months, and five-twelfths of 1 percent for 12 more months. If you retire at 62, this works out to a reduction of 25 percent. For example, if you would have gotten $1,600 per month, starting benefits at age 62 will reduce the monthly payment to $1,200.
Working and Benefits
At full retirement age, you receive your benefit without regard to any income you may have from working. However, when you start benefits early and continue working, your benefit may be reduced until you reach your full retirement age. As of 2012, benefits were reduced by one dollar for every two dollars you earned in excess of $14,640 per year. This money isn’t gone forever. Once you reach full retirement age, your benefit increases so that you eventually get all of the work-related reduction back.
Eligibility for Medicare health insurance coverage is one of the benefits provided through the Social Security Administration, but you do not become eligible until you reach age 65. This means you have to wait for three years to start Medicare when you start getting retirement benefits at age 62. When you plan for your retirement, keep in mind also that when you defer starting Social Security until after your full retirement age, your benefits will be increased. If you wait until you are past age 69, your monthly benefit check will be up to 24 percent more than if you start benefits right at full retirement age.