When Can I Retire If I Was Born in 1959?

The earliest you can begin Social Security is 2021 — but your benefit is lower if you claim before full retirement age.
Liz Weston, CFP®
By Liz Weston, CFP® 
Edited by Rick VanderKnyff

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Your Social Security full retirement age is 66 years and 10 months if you were born in 1959.

People born in 1959 can start Social Security as early as 2021, when they turn 62. Waiting until full retirement age, which starts in 2025, would mean getting 100% of benefits. Delaying until 2029 will give them the largest checks.

If you were born in 1959, here are key facts to know about Social Security:

  • If you start at 62, your Social Security checks will be permanently reduced by 29.17% from what you would get if you claimed at your full retirement age. The Social Security earnings test could lower your benefit even more if you work. Social Security withholds $1 for every $2 earned over the earnings limit (which in 2019 is $17,640) until you reach full retirement age.

  • Delaying until 66 years and 10 months results in getting 100% of your benefit, and the earnings test doesn’t apply.

  • Waiting until 70 results in the largest check, since delayed retirement credits boost your benefit by two-thirds of 1% for each month you delay until 70.

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Social Security for those born in 1959

Starting age

% of full benefit

Monthly benefit*

Annual benefit *









66 & 10 mos.








* Based on $2,000 monthly benefit

Waiting is best for most people

The higher earner in a married couple should wait as long as possible to begin.

If you’re like most people, you can expect to live beyond the “break even” age where the larger checks from delaying the start of Social Security will exceed the smaller checks you don’t collect in the meantime. (If you’re a man, at 65 you can expect to live 19 more years. If you’re a woman, average life expectancy at 65 is 84.6.)

In married couples, the higher earner should wait as long as possible to begin, because it’s that benefit that will be given to the survivor when the first spouse dies.

Claim Social Security before or after retiring

Retiring and claiming Social Security don’t have to be simultaneous. It may make sense for you to retire first and claim later, or claim and continue working. If you need money to help you delay, financial advisors often recommend tapping retirement funds. You can enroll in Medicare at 65 whether or not you’re claiming Social Security.



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How much will you need to retire?

Determining the answer to “When can I retire?” typically requires identifying other income sources in addition to Social Security, since that alone usually isn’t enough to retire comfortably. Social Security replaces about 40% of most workers’ late-career earnings, although it may replace more if you’re low income and less if you’re high income.

Most people will need additional income from a pension, retirement fund or other savings to supplement what they get from Social Security.

Our retirement calculator can help you determine how much you’ll need to retire.

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