To collect the full Social Security retirement benefit that you’re entitled to, you must wait to claim until you reach your full retirement age, which ranges from 66 to 67, depending on when you were born. But more than half of recipients start earlier and settle for a smaller benefit, often for good reason. 

What is full retirement age?

The full retirement age was 65 for many years. In 1983, Congress passed a law to raise the age because people live longer and are generally healthier as they age. The law raised the full retirement age beginning with people born in 1938 or later. The full retirement age gradually increases by a few months for every birth year, until it reaches 67 for people born in 1960 and later. You can calculate your full retirement age based on your year of birth here.

In this article, columnist Phil Moeller, the author of Get What’s Yours for Medicare: Maximize Your Coverage, Minimize Your Costs and the co-author of the updated edition of The New York Times bestseller How to Get What’s Yours: The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security, explains why he prefers waiting as long as possible, plus warns of a potential scam. 

Early retirement is a topic that has gained significant attention over the years, with many people considering this option as a way to enjoy their lives and spend more time with their loved ones. However, the reasons to retire early are not ones to be taken lightly, as they can have both positive and negative impacts on your life.

Should I take retirement early or wait until age 70?

Douglas P.: I am 65, and my wife is 62. We both were relatively high earners before our retirements. Although I initially planned for both of us to wait until we are 70 years of age to file for Social Security, I have used two different software packages that suggest that me filing a restricted application (since I was born before 1954) when I turn 66 and my wife filing when she is 63 makes more financial sense. Do you agree?

Phil Moeller: This approach may well be right for you, but I don’t know enough about you to provide an opinion.

The decision to retire early ultimately depends on your personal circumstances, financial independence, and goals. If you have enough savings and investments to support your lifestyle, then retiring early might be a viable option. However, if you still have debts to pay off or have not saved enough for retirement, then it might be better to continue working and saving for a few more years.

Retiring at 62: pros and cons

Retiring at 62 is a popular option for many people, as this is the age when most individuals become eligible for Social Security benefits. However, retiring at 62 also has its pros and cons.


  1. Retiring at 62 means that you will have more free time to pursue your hobbies and interests.
  2. Leaving the job market can help you feel less stressed and improve the quality of your life.
  3. Retiring at 62 can help you maintain better physical and mental health, as you will have more time to exercise, eat healthily, and focus on self-care.
  4. Retiring at 62 allows individuals to enjoy their retirement years while they are still young and active.
  5. Early retirement allows for more flexibility in terms of scheduling and the ability to take extended vacations.
  6. Retiring at 62 means less time spent working and commuting, which can lead to a better work-life balance.


  1. Retiring at 62 also means that you will have to pay for your healthcare costs until you become eligible for Medicare.
  2. Leaving the workforce means that you will have less social interaction and may feel isolated from your colleagues and friends.
  3. Retiring at 62 means a reduced income, which can be a financial strain for some individuals.
  4. Retiring at 62 can result in reduced Social Security benefits, which can impact overall retirement income.
  5. Health insurance costs can be expensive for individuals who leave the workforce and are not yet eligible for Medicare.
  6. Some individuals may struggle with a lack of purpose or direction after retiring early.
  7. Retiring at 62 may mean missing out on potential career advancement and earning potential.

If both you and your spouse have been high earners, filing for Social Security benefits at age 63 could mean leaving a significant amount of money on the table. Your spouse’s benefit could be reduced by around 60% per month, depending on when she turns 63. To determine the exact amount of loss due to early filing and the forfeiture of delayed retirement credits, calculate the specifics.

Benefits from Social Security can be increased on a monthly basis by waiting to start receiving them. This is due to the fact that your Social Security benefits are determined by your total earnings and the number of years you have contributed to the system. Delaying your claim allows you to accumulate more earnings toward a bigger monthly payout.

Delaying your claim allows you to accumulate more earnings toward a bigger monthly payout.

There are two approaches to considering Social Security benefits: the break-even basis and the longevity insurance basis. The break-even approach compares the amount of benefits lost by not claiming with the amount of time it would take for higher benefits to generate a larger pool of funds if the lower benefit was claimed for seven years. Adding the four years of spousal benefits to this equation could easily move the break-even point to your mid-80s, which is near your hypothetical life span. Advocates of the break-even approach may ask, “Why wait?”

However, proponents of the longevity insurance approach argue that one or both of you could live until your 90s, making Social Security benefits the best form of guaranteed and inflation-indexed longevity insurance out there. Social Security benefits are also taxed at rates lower than ordinary income. The decision to wait is therefore seen as a form of insurance against running out of money in old age.

As someone who believes in the longevity insurance approach, I would rather wait to claim Social Security benefits, even if I died before my 90s. I would be content knowing that I had taken steps to protect my future financial security. The head-on-the-pillow test, which means going to sleep at night without worrying about running short of money in old age, is essential to me.

If I die before my 90s, I’m not going to be around to lament that I should have taken benefits sooner.

If your income is above a specific threshold, a portion of your Social Security benefits will be taxed. There’s a chance you can lower your joint income and avoid taxes on your benefits if you wait to file for them.

Plan to implement before retiring early

 When all is said and done, early retirement is only a good choice if your head and your money are in the proper place. Be honest with yourself and answer the question, “Am I ready to retire?” In some cases, retiring early can be the most obvious choice if you’ve already put together a solid retirement plan.

1.       Have the plan to organize your finances.

Get your finances in order so you can determine how much money you’ll have to spend each month. Making gradual cuts to your spending in the years leading up to retirement will help ease the transition. Find out if you are entitled to any forgotten pensions, file for your state pension, and investigate other possible benefits.

2.       Pay off all debts

Prioritizing the repayment of any existing debts should be at the top of your to-do list; high-interest rates can significantly cut potential savings if left unchecked, so it’s important to accomplish this as soon as possible while continuing to invest consistently for retirement goals. In the event that you are unable to make timely payments because of an emergency or other unforeseen circumstance, it is important that you fully understand all of the terms associated with each loan before signing anything. This includes knowing the exact payment amounts, interest rates, and length of repayment periods.

3.       Consider your options carefully before making any investments.

It’s crucial to maintain a portfolio that is well diversified while saving for retirement, including stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and cash. Keep in mind your comfort level with risk and make sure your investment strategy lines up with your long-term objectives. One of the easiest methods to increase your money over time is to invest in low-cost indexes or mutual funds. Taking inflation into account while investing can help you keep up with rising costs. One of the best ways to safeguard your portfolio from a market crash is to spread your investments across several asset classes. Investing broadly entails putting money to work in several markets, including stocks, bonds, and cash.


Early retirement can be a good decision for some individuals, but it requires careful consideration of the pros and cons. It’s important to assess your financial situation, healthcare needs, and social support network before making a decision to retire early. Ultimately, the right answer to the question should be based on your personal goals, lifestyle, and financial situation. Many people can benefit financially from waiting to file for Social Security benefits, especially if they have other sources of income they can rely on in the interim.