When did full retirement age change to age 66?

Q: When did full retirement age change to age 66?

A: Full retirement age (FRA) is the age at which a person may first become entitled to full, unreduced, retirement benefits.

Based on existing legislation, full retirement age of 66 is only a step on the way to a FRA of age 67.

The original Social Security Act of 1935 established that retirement, then the only SSA benefit, could begin at age 65. Since reduced benefits did not yet exist and the retirement age was 65, there was no need then for the concept of full retirement age.

The 1956 Amendments signed by President Eisenhower provided an age 62 Social Security retirement option to women effective with November 1956, establishing reduced retirement benefits. Men became eligible for reduced retirement at age 62 as part of SSA Amendments of 1961, signed by President Kennedy. Unreduced benefits, now called full or normal benefits, were paid to people waiting until age 65 to start SSA retirement. Benefits started before age 65 were reduced based on age.

Age 65 remained as full retirement age until the 1983 SSA Amendments signed by President Reagan. Addressing financing needs of that time, the 1983 Amendments made numerous changes to the Social Security programs including taxation of SSA benefits and increases in the retirement age.

Still in progress, those 1983 retirement age increases have slowly been raising full retirement age (FRA) based on birth year from age 65 for people born in 1937 or earlier to the current FRA of age 66 for those born in 1943 – 1954. 

Starting with the birth year of 1955, full retirement age will gradually continue increasing again until reaching age 67 for people born in 1960 or later as established in the 1983 Amendments. Future legislation can change these ages.

Learn your full retirement age at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/agereduction.htm.

Reminder: Medicare age remains 65. Certain people younger than age 65 can qualify for Medicare based on disability, including those having permanent kidney failure. People usually enroll in at least part of Medicare at age 65, even if not planning to start Social Security benefits yet. It takes only about 10 minutes to complete the online Medicare application.

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