The Social Security retirement age is the age at which a person is eligible to receive the full amount of Social Security Administration (SSA) benefits to which he is entitled. Many people think of the retirement age as 65 years old, but that is not always the case. It varies based on the year in which the person was born.
With the creation of the Social Security Act of 1935, the retirement age was set to 65 years old, which is why many people think of 65 as the normal retirement age. Over time, the United States Congress evaluated the average life expectancy for United States citizens and determined that life expectancies were rising. With this in mind, Congress voted to increase the retirement age used for receiving full Social Security benefits.
In 1983, amendments to the Social Security Act stipulated that the retirement age would increase gradually, based on the year in which the recipient was born. Over a period of more than 20 years, the Social Security retirement age was set to move from 65 to 67, increasing by months rather than years. The retirement age didn't increase with every year. Instead, it remained stable for 11 birth years, leaving the retirement age at 66 for anyone who was born between 1943 and 1954.
The SSA maintains a chart that people can use to determine their retirement age. As listed on the chart, people who were born before 1937 are eligible for full retirement benefits when they turn 65. Those who were born in 1938 are eligible when they turn 65 and two months old while people who were born in 1939 are eligible when they are 65 and four months old. There is a two-month delay for each year in which the increase is applied until 1943, when the retirement age turned to 66 for anyone born from 1943 to 1954.
For those born after 1954, the retirement age increased in two-month increments once more. A person born in 1955 would reach Social Security retirement age at 66 and two months old while a person born in 1959 would be eligible at 66 and 10 months old. Anyone born in 1960 or any year after it would be eligible when he reached 67 years old.
If desired, a person may apply and receive Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. Since 62 isn’t the full retirement age, no matter what the year of birth, the person receiving benefits would collect a reduced amount. For example, if a someone were born in 1943, his Social Security retirement age would be 66. If he wanted to retire at age 62, his benefits would be reduced by a percentage set by the SSA. The reduction would apply for the entire time he received benefits, even after he reached normal retirement age.