Q: What is full retirement age?
A: As usually discussed. full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which a person may first become entitled to an unreduced Social Security retirement benefit.
Consider full retirement age as a point in time. If you start retirement benefits before full retirement age, they are reduced by the number of months that you are early. Benefits started after your FRA increase based on the number of months that you are past. If you start Social Security exactly at full retirement age, benefits are full, neither reduced nor increased. For Social Security retirement, you may start receiving benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70 no matter what your FRA is.
Originally age 65 when SSA retirement began, full retirement age, also called normal retirement age, has gradually been increasing based on year of birth since the 1983 Amendments. Resulting from that 1983 legislation, FRA for Social Security retirement purposes is scheduled to increase to age 67 for those born in 1960 and later. For people born in 1943-1954, FRA is age 66. Learn your retirement FRA at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm.
Often overlooked but important, is that full retirement ages are different for Social Security retirement compared to survivors benefits. The earliest a widow or widower can start receiving SSA survivors benefits based on age is age 60, younger than SSA retirement benefits. Surviviors benefits do not increase if delayed past full retirement age. FRA for Social Security survivors benefits is scheduled to increase to age 67 for those born in 1962 and later. For people born in 1945-1956, survivors benefits FRA is age 66. Learn your survivors FRA at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan/survivorchartred.htm.
Discussions of Social Security full retirement age, including in these posts, usually refer to retirement only and rarely point out the difference for survivors benefits. However, this is important if you might be eligible for both types of benefit.
Advantages and disadvantages exist to starting Social Security either before or after FRA. The decision is yours based on your plans, family situation, finances and other items not discussed today. See http://www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/otherthings.htm for some things to consider.