To receive social security benefits, you’ll need to be aged 62 or above or be disabled. As you approach the eligibility age for Social Security benefits, you wonder about the program. Questions like when to apply and if there’s a best month to start Social Security are some common questions. 

In this article,  we discuss the different options for your Social Security benefits start date, the factors that affect it, the Social Security benefits start month, and how the time you apply may change that. 

When should you take Social Security benefits?

Social security benefits differ from person to person and are based on how much you’ve earned while working in your lifetime. But generally, to be eligible for social security benefits, you must be between 62 and 70. The period you decide to begin accepting payments between this eligible age range determines how much you get monthly. There are three groups within this age range: those eligible, those at full retirement age, and those aged 70. We’ll be looking at each of these groups closely.

Those eligible for Social Security benefits (age 62)

As we said earlier, at 62, you become entitled to social security benefits. Opting to begin receiving benefits at this age will, however, mean your monthly benefits will be reduced by ~30% for however long you continue to receive these benefits. If your ideal benefits are $1000, and you opt to begin receiving them before your full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced to $700 and stay at that amount permanently.

Those at their Full Retirement Age

For a long time, the full retirement age was fixed at 65. However, the Social Security Amendments passed by Congress in 1983 changed that to cater to longer lifespans. Right now, people born between 1943 and 1954 have 66 as their full retirement age. On the other hand, those born in 1960 have 67 as their retirement age, and it is believed that those born in 1978 or later will have a full retirement age of 78. You can find out your full retirement age here.

You will be entitled to your full basic social security benefits at your full retirement age, provided you haven’t opted to start receiving these benefits earlier. Using our previous example, if you were born in 1960 and choose to begin receiving your benefits at the age of 67, you will get the full $1000. Many people who maintain other sources of income before their full retirement age choose to wait until their full retirement age to begin receiving benefits. 

At the age of 70

Deferring your benefits till you turn 70 will increase your basic benefit payments by more than 20%. The increase in basic benefits credits those who decide to begin receiving benefits late for their decision. Ultimately, it also serves as an incentive, encouraging more people to choose to start accepting payments late. But remember, whatever decision you make concerning when you begin to receive your social security benefits should be made considering your circumstances primarily. 

Using our previous example once again, if your full retirement age is 67 and you choose to wait till you’re 70 before you begin receiving payments, your basic payments will increase to $1,240 monthly.

(Source: Social Security Administration)

How do you decide at what age range to start receiving social security benefits? Here are some things you may want to consider:

  • Your employment status: If you have a job that earns you a comfortable income, you can wait till your full retirement age to start receiving benefits
  • Life expectancy: If, based on family history, you expect to live a long life, you can opt to delay your social security benefits.
  • Savings and Retirement Plans: If you have enough savings and a good retirement plan to fall back on, you can choose to delay your social security benefits.

It is also essential to remember that if you intend to benefit from Medicare but also want to delay your benefits, you’ll still need to register separately for Medicare at least three months before you turn 65.  

What month do Social Security benefits start?

The social security benefits start month may also differ from individual to individual. While some people have had their applications processed within the same month, others have had to wait three months before their applications were approved. The general best practice is to apply four months before the month you’ll want to begin to receive it. Once they start, payments will be made in the month after that which they were due, e.g., payments for August will be made in September.  

What date do Social Security benefits start?

Your Social Security benefits start date will remain the day of the month on which you will receive benefits in perpetuity. It is, however, determined by birthdates. People born on the 1st to 10th of any month will receive benefits on the second Wednesday of the month. Those born from the 11th to the 20th will receive benefits on the third Wednesday, while those born between the 21st and 31st will receive benefits on the fourth Wednesday. Only those who started receiving payments before May 1, 1997, receive benefits on the third of every month.

What is the best month to start Social Security?

There is no absolute “best month to start Social Security.” However, it is advisable to specify in your application that payments should begin the month you attain the age you want to begin collecting benefits. For instance, if you wait until you turn 70 to maximize benefits, ask that payments begin the month you turn 70; i.e., if you turn 70 in August, request that payments begin in August. This way, immediately you turn 70, you’ll start to receive the most possible benefits throughout that year and for the rest of your life. Remember that payments for a month will arrive in the following month, e.g., payments for August will arrive in September.