Full Retirement Age: Best Practices and Mistakes to Avoid

Navigating through the retirement planning process can be daunting. It requires some math, some best guesses, and a lot of self-reflection.

One aspect of retirement planning sometimes gets overlooked: timing. The age you retire can impact your retirement and how you plan for it.

I’ve gotten the question many times: “When is the best age for retirement?” As always, the answer can vary depending on the individual and their retirement goals. The answer requires considering the nuances of receiving social security benefits, the implications of working longer, economic factors (such as inflation), and the delicate balance between retirement savings and retirement income.

However, some common guidelines and considerations can help you determine what works for you and your situation.

Today, I want to delve into the topic of Full Retirement Age (FRA), outlining three best practices to maximize your Social Security benefits and highlighting two common pitfalls to avoid.

Three Best Practices for Maximizing Social Security Benefits

How can you maximize the benefits you receive from Social Security? Believe it or not, timing can make all the difference. So, if you want to get the most out of your Social Security, keep in mind the following best practices:

1. Delaying Retirement to Reach Full Retirement Age

One of the most significant considerations when contemplating early retirement is Social Security. Did you know that your benefit amount directly correlates with your birth year and the age at which you start receiving benefits? For example, people born in 1960 or later reach full retirement age at 67.

An essential best practice is to delay receiving Social Security until you reach your FRA to receive 100% of your benefit. If you start receiving benefits before your FRA, your monthly benefit will be a percentage that’s less than the FRA amount.

Consider delaying payments even beyond FRA to give your retirement account an additional boost. Ideally, you’d want to delay Social Security until you reach age 70. This tactic may earn you ‘delayed retirement credits,’ an increase in your Social Security benefit amount by an impressive 8% per year every year you delay receiving benefits until age 70.

2. Maximizing Your Income

The second best practice revolves around your earnings. Your Social Security benefit amount is calculated using your highest 35 years of earnings. If you’ve worked fewer than 35 years, 0’s get averaged in, potentially reducing your benefit. So, it’s beneficial to your retirement income to work at least 35 years or longer to maximize your Social Security benefits. A longer working tenure could also help beef up your 401(k) plan.

3. Coordinating Benefits for Couples

If you’re married, coordinating benefits with your spouse can help maximize your retirement income. For instance, one spouse may choose to delay receiving benefits until age 70, while the other spouse claims at an earlier age. This strategy allows the couple to benefit from the higher monthly benefit amount resulting from delayed retirement while still having some income from Social Security in the interim.

Two Common Mistakes to Avoid

The above best practices can help you remember what to do when determining when to retire. But what should you not do? Here are two of the most common mistakes you should avoid when deciding when to receive retirement benefits:

1. Don’t Get Penalized by the “Earnings Limit”

If you choose to claim Social Security benefits before reaching FRA while continuing to work, beware of the “earnings limit.” This earnings limit changes each year. If you earn more than this limit, it may reduce your benefits. This trap can significantly impact your retirement savings if you’re not careful.

2. Understand the Difference Between Social Security Benefits and Medicare

A frequent misconception conflates the timeline for applying for Social Security benefits with applying for Medicare. Many people think that if they’re not filing for Social Security until age 70, they don’t need to file for Medicare until that age. However, this can lead to costly late enrollment penalties, which can be as high as 10% per year.

To avoid these hefty penalties and maintain your health insurance, you must apply for Medicare at age 65 regardless of when you plan to retire or file for Social Security benefits.

And don’t forget: purchasing a Medicare supplement is one of our top money-saving tips for retirees!


To wrap up, your Full Retirement Age is more than just a number; it’s an integral part of your retirement planning. Whether you’re contemplating early retirement or delaying it until 70, understanding the intricacies of Social Security and Medicare can make a world of difference. It’s about building a financially secure future where your retirement savings and income effectively support your lifestyle and health insurance needs.