Will My Social Security Benefit Increase at My Full Retirement Age?


Some seniors get a boost at this age — but there’s a trade-off.

Social Security is poorly understood, even though it forms the backbone of most Americans’ retirement plans. Too many workers and seniors misunderstand key benefit rules, and as a result, they miss out on opportunities to supercharge their checks.

For example, many believe that the government automatically increases your Social Security benefit once you reach your full retirement age (FRA). But that’s only true for some people. Here’s how to know if your benefits will get a bump when you reach this milestone.

Thoughtful person looking at tablet in office.

Image source: Getty Images.

What is full retirement age anyway?

Even the concept of full retirement age (FRA) is confusing for some. You might think it’s the age you leave the workforce for good, but it’s not related to employment status. FRA is something the Social Security Administration assigns to you based on your birth year. It’s when you qualify for your full Social Security benefit based on your work history. This is also known as your primary insurance amount (PIA).

FRA is between 66 and 67 for today’s workers. This table can help you find yours:

Birth Year

Full Retirement Age (FRA)

1943 to 1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960 and later

67

Source: Social Security Administration.

You don’t have to wait this long to claim benefits, though. You’re allowed to apply as early as 62, but there’s a catch. Every month you claim Social Security before your FRA shrinks your checks. You’ll lose anywhere from 5/12 of 1% per month to 5/9 of 1% per month — or about 5% to 6.67% for a full year of early claiming.

Some people believe this reduction is temporary and that the government will begin paying their full benefit once they reach their FRA. But this isn’t true. Claiming Social Security early permanently reduces the size of your checks.

There is a subset of Social Security beneficiaries who could see their checks rise at their FRA, though. But even if you’re one of them, it might not give you the huge boost you hope for.

Who gets more Social Security at their full retirement age?

You might see a benefit bump when you reach your FRA if you had money withheld from your checks due to the earnings test. This only applies to those claiming Social Security under their FRA while also earning income from a job. It works like this:

  • If you’ll be under your FRA for all of 2024, the Social Security Administration withholds $1 from your checks for every $2 you earn over $22,320.
  • If you’ll reach your FRA in 2024, you lose $1 for every $3 you earn over $59,520, if you earn this much before your birthday.

When you reach your FRA, the government recalculates your benefit and increases your payment amount to make up for what it withheld before. The increase you’ll get depends on your income history and how much the Social Security Administration kept back from you in earlier years. If you have any questions about this, it’s best to contact the Social Security Administration directly for personalized answers.

How can you increase your Social Security benefits?

Banking on a Social Security boost at your FRA isn’t the best way to increase your benefits. Instead, workers can try one or more of the following things:

  • Work at least 35 years: The government looks at your 35 highest-earning years when calculating your benefit. Working more years could remove lower-earning years from your benefit calculationif you’re earning more now than in years past.
  • Boost your income today: Anything you do to increase your income now could lead to larger Social Security benefits in the future, as long as you earn less than the maximum income subject to Social Security taxes ($168,600 in 2024).
  • Choose the right claiming age: Claiming early could be the right choice if you have a short life expectancy or you have no other means to cover your retirement expenses. But later claiming leads to the biggest lifetime payouts for most people. You don’t have to claim right at your FRA either. Your checks continue to grow by 8% per year beyond this until you reach 70.

The above moves are great for those who haven’t applied for Social Security yet, but there are also things that seniors who have already signed up can try, including:

  • Withdraw your Social Security application: You ask the Social Security Administration to stop sending you checks and pay back all the money you and any family members claiming on your record have received thus far. In return, the government treats you as if you’ve never applied for benefits before. You can only do this once, and it must be within the first 12 months after signing up.
  • Suspend benefits at your FRA: If you missed the boat on withdrawing your Social Security application, you can suspend benefits at your FRA. The government will stop sending you checks until you either reach 70 or request that they start again. During the time you’re not receiving benefits, you’ll earn delayed retirement credits that boost your future checks.

Even these things may not be easy for those who depend heavily on Social Security. But they’re worth keeping in mind if you’re serious about boosting your checks. When that’s not a possibility, you may want to explore other ways to increase your retirement income.



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