For most people, it is beneficial to wait to take Social Security benefits until they are 66 or older, as monthly amounts continue to increase for delayed benefits until the age of 69. However, beginning benefits at age 62 may be appropriate for married women or those with short life expectancies.
People do not receive 100 percent of their Social Security benefits until they reach full retirement age. Full retirement age is 65 for those born before 1938, between 65 and 67 for those born from 1938 to 1959, and 67 for those born after 1959. Initiating benefits early means less monthly income, while delaying monthly benefits increases income. For instance, someone whose full retirement age is 66 and receives a full retirement benefit of $1000 would receive $750 or 25 percent less when retiring at 62 or $1,320 or 32 percent more when retiring at 70.
Whether people opt for smaller benefits for a longer period of time or larger benefits for less time, the amount of lifetime benefits remains about the same, according to Social Security estimates. Factors to consider when contemplating when to initiate Social Security benefits include the potential retiree's health, family history of longevity, access to health insurance, continuing employment and alternate sources of income. Married women may consider claiming early benefits if they anticipate outliving their spouse, and their spouse does not claim early benefits, as later they can claim the greater of their own or their husband's benefits.