Turning 62 in 2023? Here’s How to Know If It’s Time to Apply for Social Security

When you apply for Social Security is one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your retirement finances. Your age at sign up determines how much you get each month from the program, which in turn determines how much you’ll need to regularly withdraw from your personal savings.

Those turning 62 in 2023 will have to decide if they want to apply for benefits right away. But before you make that call, it’s important to understand how that decision will affect your checks.

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How does claiming Social Security at 62 affect my benefit?

62 is the earliest age you can sign up for Social Security retirement benefits, but the government doesn’t consider you fully retired at this point, even if you’ve stopped working. Your full retirement age (FRA), as defined by the Social Security Administration, is somewhere between 66 and 67, depending on your birth year. For those turning 62 in 2023, FRA is 67.

You must wait until FRA to sign up if you want the full benefit you’ve earned based on your work history. Every month you claim benefits under your FRA reduces your checks. Those with an FRA of 67 only get 70% of their full benefit per check if they sign up as soon as they turn 62.

Conversely, every month that you delay benefits boosts your checks a little until you reach your maximum benefit at 70. That’s 124% of your full benefit per check if your FRA is 67.

But this doesn’t mean delaying benefits is always your best option. Waiting to sign up forces you to pay for all your expenses on your own until you’re ready to claim, and that’s not feasible for everyone. It could also short-change you if you have a short life expectancy. In this case, you’ll probably get more overall by claiming checks for as long as you can rather than receiving larger checks for fewer years.

It’s a good idea to weigh all your options before deciding whether to claim Social Security at 62. Create a my Social Security account and use the calculator there to figure out how much you’ll receive from the program at any age between 62 and 70.

Pick a few ages you’re interested in and multiply the monthly amount by 12 to get your estimated annual benefits. Then, multiply each of these by the number of years you expect to claim to estimate how much you’ll get from the program during your lifetime. For example, a $2,000 monthly benefit claimed for 20 years would give you a lifetime benefit of $480,000. Whenever possible, choose the claiming age that will give you the most money overall.

When will I get my first Social Security check?

You may apply for Social Security up to four months in advance of when you want your benefits to begin. But it’s important to note that you won’t receive your first check right away. The Social Security Administration pays out benefits in the month after the month they’re due. For example, if you want your benefits to begin in February, you won’t receive your first check until March.

Things get trickier for those who plan to sign up as soon as they turn 62. You’re not technically eligible for benefits until you’re 62 for the entire month. If you were born on the 1st or 2nd of the month, then your birth month is your first month of eligibility. But if you were born on any other day, you aren’t eligible for Social Security until the month after your birth month. This is something to keep in mind so you don’t wind up without adequate income in the months between sign up and receiving your first check.

When your checks come through also depends on the day of the month you were born, as outlined below:

1st through the 10th: Second Wednesday of every month
11th through the 20th: Third Wednesday of every month
21st through the 31st: Fourth Wednesday of every month

Keeping this information in mind can help you plan when you want to sign up for benefits and how you’ll cover your costs in the meantime. If you choose not to claim this year, think about when you might want to sign up and make a note on the calendar so you remember to apply a little in advance of when you want your checks to begin.

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