In reality, most people are putting off their retirement in a bad economy, working simply to pay the bills, with little thought to something called early retirement. In fact, a large percentage of the American population has little or no private retirement savings. In 2008, 64 % of Americans relied upon SS as their primary source of income and 33% relied upon SS as 90% of their income. In short, most Americans will depend to a large extent upon their Social Security benefits someday to make ends meet. For them, waiting until the end point age of 70 is inevitable, as they need to make as much money now as they can, because they have no savings to fall back on to tide them over and they will need the largest possible SS benefit they can receive to pay their bills.
Utilize the SSA's website
The wisest approach short of hiring a financial planner for a fee only basis to assess your situation is to venture into the SSA's official site where you can actually input your scenario and get projections which will help you see how much you will get and base your decision on that information. What is clear is that your monthly benefit amount is reduced if you take early retirement. Conversely, it increases by certain percentages for each year that you delay retirement up to age 70. The benefit increase stops at age 70 even if you delay taking benefits, so there is no logical reason to delay beyond age 70.
Determine your full retirement age
The SSA maintains an elaborate site which provides information and advice about when to retire and what your benefit will be. To determine what is considered full retirement age for you, see the weblink for the full retirement age chart below, where you will find a chart indicating the full retirement age by year of birth. For example, 65 is no longer full retirement age for everyone. Instead, it is extended in increments for those born after 1938 and is now up to 67 for those born 1960 and later.
Apply for Medicare at age 65
The SSA site advises: "If you decide to delay your benefits until after age 65, you should still apply for Medicare benefits within three months of your 65th birthday. If you wait longer, your Medicare medical insurance (Part B) and prescription drug coverage (Part D) may cost you more money."
This is critical since the age for eligibility for Medicare has NOT changed and remains at 65 no matter year you were born.
Consider all your variables in advance
There are so many issues which can affect you when the time draws near, you need to research the issues and make a decision. If you are already there and are near retirement go here Take the time to write down the pros and cons of your situation. Try to make your decision based upon the reality of your circumstances. Look at the web links below this guide which provide SSA web pages filled with advice on what to consider as you make your decision.
Call the SSA directly
You can also call the SSA on their hotline, although you should be prepared for a long wait to talk to a representative. 1-800-772-1213. TTY users should call 1-800-325-0778.