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The most important social security form you will ever see

If you go through life assuming you want to start collecting your Social Security benefits at age 65 or at a time when you are qualified, you may want to join in some surprises. First, the only people who have "full retirement age" (the time they can collect their full benefits) are currently 77 years or older. Those aged 60 to 76 this year have a full retirement age between 66 and 67, and the many millions of us younger than they are looking at a full retirement age of 67.

You can begin to accumulate your benefits at an age of 62, although the benefits checks will be less if you claim this early. And delay – up to 70 years –

; can make your checks bigger. Thus, as you begin to gather your benefits is an important issue. Below is the most important social security chart that reflects how benefits change as you begin to collect them.

  A rubber stamp, after stamping the word important, appears in red.

Image Source: Getty Images.

The most important social security diagram

Without further ado, the critical diagram is below. It caters to those born in 1960 or earlier who have a full retirement age of 67:

If you start collecting Social Security at:

Your benefits will be:

Age 62

Reduced by about 30 % [19659011] Age 63

Reduced by about 25%

Age 64

Reduced by about 20%

Age 65

Reduced by about 13.3%

Age 66

Reduced by about 6.7%

Age 67


Age 68

Increased by about 8%

Age 69

Increased by about 16%

Age 70

Increased by about 24% [19659027] Source: SSA.gov.

When should you start gathering social security?

You might think that you are looking at the chart that waiting for 70 years is the best move. It may be the best feature for many people, but not for everyone. The most common age at which people begin to reap the benefits is 62. Many people start early because they have to do so because of an unexpected job loss, a setback in their health or need to care for a parent. Many others simply need that income as soon as possible.

Starting early is also what you can do if people in the family do not tend to live long lives or if you plan to retire early. You can also start early because it makes no difference if you live an average life. The system is designed so that the total income from Social Security will be about the same no matter when you start collecting – if you live an average length.

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Consider Waiting

If you can hang on for 70 years – or at least as long as possible – it can serve you well. Here are the benefits of postponing until then:

  • You get bigger controls – and potentially much bigger controls. (Note, however, that by procrastinating, you will end up receiving fewer checks.)
  • If you live an extra-long life (and many of us might), you will get ahead, with greater total income from Social Security.
  • If you keep working until your 70s or late 60s, you can save and invest money for retirement for several years, accumulating a bigger nest egg.
  • This nest egg will also need to support you for fewer years.
  • By staying at your job longer, you may be left on the employer's health insurance plan longer, which can help you save money.

Waiting as long as possible to start collecting is also smart strategic if you are married and are the one with higher earnings history. That means your checks will be larger than your spouse's, and you can maximize them by postponing. Such a move can help your spouse if you first die because a surviving spouse can collect either their own benefits or the benefits of their deceased partner – whichever is greater.

There are other ways to increase your social security benefits beyond just delaying collection. The more you know about Social Security, the more money you can get out of it.

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