`Couple considering Social Security benefits

Considering Social Security Retirement Benefits

When should you talk to us?

Age 61 (or sooner)

Social Security Basics


To be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits, you need to have worked for about 10 years, during which time you paid payroll taxes, which include Social Security taxes.  If you are not eligible due to limited work history, but your spouse is eligible, you may be entitled to retirement benefits based upon a current, deceased, or ex-spouse.

Starting Retirement Benefits

In most cases, you can “claim” your retirement benefits when you reach age 62.  In certain cases, such as disability or becoming a widow or widower, you may be able to claim benefits earlier.

Full Retirement Age

Depending on your year of birth, your Full Retirement Age (FRA) will be between 65 and 67 years of age according to the table below.

Birth YearFull Retirement Age
1937 & Before65
193865 + 2 months
193965 + 4 months
194065 + 6 months
194165 + 8 months
194265 + 10 months
Birth YearFull Retirement Age
1943 - 195466
195566 + 2 months
195666 + 4 months
195766 + 6 months
195866 + 8 months
195966 + 10 months
1960 & After67

Amount of Benefits

The formula used to calculate your monthly benefit is complicated.  In essence, it time-weights your highest 35 years of earnings, and creates an average.  This average is then used to determine your monthly benefit.  This is called your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), and it is equal to what your benefit will be if you claim your benefit at your FRA.

If you claim benefits before your FRA, your benefit amount will be permanently reduced.  Likewise, for each month you delay claiming your benefit after your FRA, you will have a permanent increase in your benefit amount.  These increases stop once you reach age 70.

Benefit amounts for spouses, ex-spouses, widows, and widowers have additional calculations.

Cost of Living Adjustments

Each year, the Social Security Administration reviews the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) and determines if a Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) is warranted.  If there is a percentage increase in the CPI-W, Social Security beneficiaries will see their benefit rise by that amount.

Claiming Strategies

Deciding when to claim Social Security Benefits is often a breakeven calculation based on your life expectancy.  For couples, it’s based on joint life expectancies.  If you claim too early, you will be receiving a reduced benefit amount for the rest of your life.  If you delay claiming, but pass away after receiving just a few payments, benefits weren’t maximized.

Claiming strategies need to take into account current and future non-Social Security income, retirement assets, marital status, and family longevity in order to maximize Social Security benefits and not leave money on the table.

Cyan has Social Security maximization software that will create a customized report for you.  Contact us today at (865) 622-2265, or fill in the contact form below for a free consultation regarding your options.