Commonly asked questions about receiving Social Security benefits

The U.S. Social Security program allows retirees to have consistent income. But how much you receive can vary significantly depending on when you start receiving it and your unique situation.

Tags: Retirement
Published: July 12, 2021
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Here are some answers to help you understand the basics of eligibility.

Question No. 1:

When can I start receiving Social Security?


You can start claiming your benefit at 62, but if your health and financial portfolio is in shape, you may want to wait longer.


Age 62


Age 66 or 67


Age 70


The earliest you can start.


[CALLOUT] Benefits could be up to 30 percent lower than at full retirement age.


Full retirement age, depending on when you were born.


[CALLOUT] If you delay retirement, you can continue to increase your future benefits.


When your benefits reach their maximum —


[CALLOUT] Benefits could be up to 32 percent higher than at full retirement age.



Question No. 2:

When am I eligible for full retirement benefits?

Your “full retirement age” depends on when you were born.


Born in 1943 to 1954?


Born in 1955 to 1959?


Born in 1960 or later?


The month you turn 66.


Your eligibility increases incrementally from 66 to 67.

The month you turn 67.


Question No. 3:

How is my benefit amount determined?

There are a number of factors.

  • Work history
  • Actual lifetime earnings
  • Social Security “credits” accrued by working
  • Cost-of-living increases
  • Age when you claim benefits
  • Year of birth
  • Location

Visit for calculators to help you make an estimate.

Questions No. 4:

How do I claim benefits?

You can initiate the process with whichever of the following options you prefer.


By phone

In person

Go to

Call 800.772.1213

TTY 800.325.0778

Find a nearby location at

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Find out more about planning for your future with this checklist.