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The average Social Security benefit amount for a retired beneficiary at age 65 was $1,389 per month in December 2021, according to the most recent data available from the Social Security Administration. However, the SSA calculates each retiree's benefits individually. Your benefit amount depends on how much you earned during your working years, your age at retirement, cost-of-living increases and whether you have a pension.
Your income. The higher your income, the higher benefit you'll get. Your income is calculated based on your 35 highest-earning years. This can be helpful if you've had years where you earned less or took time off work to care for a family or your health.
Your age at retirement. If you claim Social Security before you reach full retirement age (you can begin receiving benefits as early as age 62), you'll receive a lower basic benefit amount. However, if you decide to put off retirement beyond the full retirement age — age 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1959, and age 67 if you were born in 1960 or later — the benefits you'll receive will continue to increase incrementally until age 70.
Your cost-of-living increases. The SSA makes annual cost-of-living adjustments to its benefits. In 2023, it announced an 8.7% cost of living increase for Social Security recipients. You become eligible for cost-of-living benefit increases when you turn 62, whether or not you claim your benefits immediately. These increases will continue to be factored into the amount you'll receive, even if you wait until your full retirement age or later.
If you are eligible for a government pension. If you received a pension while you worked for the government but didn't pay Social Security taxes during that job, your Social Security retirement benefit would be reduced. This reduction often affects public school teachers, for example.
How much more will I get if I put off retirement?
Your Social Security monthly benefit amount increases by a certain percentage every month from when you reach full retirement age until 70. Because of this, waiting a few extra years might significantly increase your benefits.
The actual percent by which your basic benefit amount increases between full retirement age and age 70 depends on the year you were born. For example, if you were born in 1943 or later, that increase is 8% annually.
After age 70, there are no more incremental percentage benefit increases, so waiting longer to retire won't increase your benefits.
If you continue to work after you begin to claim benefits — which you are allowed to do — the SSA will continue to monitor your earnings and may recalculate your benefits based on your earnings. However, working while receiving Social Security benefits can reduce benefits if you are below full retirement age and make more than the annual earnings limit.
What happens if I retire before age 65?
You're eligible to start receiving Social Security at age 62, but this choice may reduce your monthly benefit by as much as 30%. The upside of early retirement is that you'll receive benefits for more total years than if you wait.
You'll receive your largest possible monthly benefit if you wait until you're 70 to claim Social Security, but you'll have fewer total years of receiving benefits. So before deciding, consider your current and future financial needs, health and life expectancy.
You can apply for Social Security (and ask any questions about your benefits) by calling the SSA national toll-free service at 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778). You can also make an appointment and visit your local Social Security office to apply in person.
If you prefer, you can also apply online.
Those living outside the U.S. or one of its territories can contact their closest U.S. Social Security office, U.S. Embassy or consulate.
» Learn more: When and how to apply for Social Security