What is full retirement age?

1 min readLast updated October 4, 2023by Rachel Carey

Retirement can be a time for settling down. Exploring new things. Traveling. Looking after the grandkids. Each retirement can look different; Social Security and the benefits it provides once you reach a certain age, is one thing most have in common. However, that age can vary depending on when you were born. So, if you want to plan as efficiently as possible for your retirement, knowing your full retirement age is essential.

Knowing your full retirement age will impact how you live your life. How you save, how long you work, and the way you plan out your financial future. Retirement may mean something different to us all, but the best way to make the most of it is to ensure you have a good financial foundation when you finish working.  

What is full retirement age?   

Full retirement age – or “normal retirement age” – is the age at which Social Security will offer you your retirement benefits in full. The full retirement age varies depending on when you were born; for people born in 1955, it is 66 years and two months. After that, it increases on a sliding scale, up to 67 for those born in 1960 or later.  

What is full retirement age for Social Security?  

While the full retirement age entitles you to all of the benefits of Social Security, retiring at 62 means you can start claiming some benefits. However, the earlier you claim your benefits before you reach full retirement age, the more your permanent benefit will be reduced.  

So, if your full retirement age is 67, and you begin claiming benefits at 62, your monthly benefit when you reach that full retirement age maybe 70 percent of what you would have received had you not retired earlier.  

After age 62, your benefit increases by eight percent each year you delay your Social Security claims. This rule applies to people born after 1943. 

Once you reach the age of 70, you will yield the maximum retirement benefits, so there’s no reason to wait beyond that age to start claiming.  

Although relatively rare, it’s important to note not every American will qualify for Social Security in retirement. The most common reason some people do not qualify is because they have not accrued the required 40 credits (roughly ten years of employment) to be eligible for Social Security. 

Certain divorce agreements, retiring to specific foreign countries, and specific types of employment that don’t pay into Social Security are also reasons you may not be eligible.  

Finding your full retirement age  

The sliding scale of retirement age can require some calculation since even the day you are born can impact your full retirement date. For example, if you were born on the first day of the year, you’ll need to use the full retirement age as those born the year before. And if you were born on the first of the month, your benefits will be the same as someone born the previous month.  

The helpful table below can assist you in working out your full retirement age. 

Year of birth Full Retirement Age
1943–1954 66 years old
1955 66 and two months
1956 66 and four months
1957 66 and six months
1958 66 and eight months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 and later 67 years old

What is early retirement age? 

Originally, when Social Security first came into being in 1935, the full retirement age was 65. Since then, legislation has raised that age to 66 and 67.  

Taking early retirement will see you incur reductions to your overall Social Security benefits, but you can start claiming at the age of 62. If you plan to take an even earlier retirement than that, you will not have any state-funded benefits and will need to live off your own savings. Our guide to early retirement offers key advice on approaching your finances.  

Average retirement age in the US  

According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the average retirement age across the US has increased. In the last three decades, the retirement age for men has risen to 64.6 years, while for women, that figure has increased to 62.3 years.  

Why is this happening?  

According to Boston College’s research, college graduates are driving the trend, retiring more than a year later, on average, than in the nineties. However, high school graduates are less inclined to increase their retirement age than college graduates, with the figure increasing by just 0.6 years. So, while the average retirement age has increased, behavior patterns vary across social groups.  

How much should I have saved by my full retirement age?  

Saving is one of the fundamental pillars of good financial planning. If you’re planning to retire before full retirement age, then the need to have additional financial support will be more urgent since you won’t receive the full Social Security benefits. However, should you be finishing work at full retirement age, it’s still valuable to have additional savings – particularly for an emergency.  

Since everyone approaches retirement differently, you should establish what kind of life you want to lead once you finish work. For example, if you plan to travel or invest, you should have a significant pot saved up that can be used outside your standard Social Security benefits, as those alone may not afford that type of lifestyle. And even if you aren’t interested in living a lavish lifestyle, it’s always advisable to have a rainy-day fund – for healthcare or even a nursing home in the future.  

Planning for your retirement can be time-consuming, and you may need to seek the support of an expert to help you. But knowing when your full retirement age is will inform how you approach the next step in securing your financial future. Find a financial advisor to plan your retirement.

Senior Content Writer

Rachel Carey

Rachel is a Senior Content Writer at Unbiased. She has nearly a decade of experience writing and producing content across a range of different sectors.