One of the biggest questions for those about to retire is when to take Social Security. But when it comes to filing for benefits, cheating off your neighbor may be the worst choice you could make. That’s because most Americans are reducing their total lifetime benefit by filing earlier than full retirement age, even if it may make financial sense for them at the time.

Here’s the average age Americans filed for Social Security benefits in 2022 and the average benefit they received.

What’s the average age Americans take Social Security?

Here’s the number of American retired workers who newly claimed Social Security in 2022 and their average monthly benefit.

Age Number (percentage of total) Average benefit
62 807,587 (27.3%) $1,287.61
63 222,908 (7.5%) $1,510.29
64 238,163 (8.0%) $1,625.03
65 388,996 (13.1%) $1,874.56
66 1,182,692 (24.7%) $2,039.86
67 122,918 (4.1%) $2,399.86
68 74,743 (2.5%) $2,594.74
69 66,638 (2.2%) $2,806.90
70-74 302,327 (10.2%) $3,065.48
75+ 6,317 (0.2%) $1,185.00

Source: Annual Statistical Supplement to the Social Security Bulletin, 2023

You can see spikes in retired workers filing for benefits at key points in the program:

  • At age 62, when they become eligible to file for benefits
  • At age 66, when many hit full retirement age
  • At age 70, when they can no longer increase their monthly benefit by waiting

Retired workers can increase their payout by waiting longer to claim their benefits. You can see the cost of filing early above, with the average benefit at 62 much lower than at full retirement age, which is between 66 and 67 years, depending on your birth year between 1955 and 1959.

In any case, the average benefit rises for each age group, up to the maximum of age 70, when you no longer accrue additional benefits for waiting. Surprisingly, some Americans filed at age 75 or later, perhaps because they didn’t know about the rules or because they had not accrued enough work credits to participate. Typically, it requires 10 years’ worth of work to file.

When the Social Security Administration boils all those figures down, the weighted average age of all newly retired workers filing for benefits was about 65 years in 2022.

  • In 2022, the average was 65.1 years for men, while for women it was about 65.0 years.
  • In 1998, the average filing age for men was 63.4 years and for women 63.5 years.

So the average age of retired workers claiming new benefits has risen substantially since 1998.

What is the best age to file for Social Security?

The best age to file for benefits is a hotly debated topic, and the answer depends so heavily on your goals and circumstances. For context, the average Social Security benefit for retired workers came to about $1,905 per month in December 2023.

  • If you can afford to wait, then filing as late as possible – age 70 – can make a lot of sense. Your monthly benefit will increase for every month you delay claiming it. For every year you wait past full retirement, you’ll get an extra 8 percent on your check.
  • If you need to file earlier, then you’ll receive less money for each month before your full retirement age. But it may be the best course of action, given your financial situation.

While unquestionably you’ll get a larger monthly check if you wait longer, you may not max out your lifetime earnings that way, due to a shortened longevity. But if you anticipate living a long time – perhaps due to strong genetics or a healthy lifestyle – then you could end up receiving much more from Social Security by waiting as long as possible to file for benefits.

So based on your expected lifetime you could run a break-even analysis to determine the best age for you to claim Social Security. As an approximation, if you filed for benefits at age 62 versus age 70, it would take until about age 78 for you to receive the same cumulative benefits.

If you can reach that age, then it begins to make more sense to file for benefits later (versus age 62), if your goal is to maximize your lifetime payout and you can afford to wait that long.

Of course, those are the two most extreme points to file for benefits, and the breakeven age would extend further if you waited to, say, age 67 before filing benefits. At full retirement age you would earn your full benefit, and the gap between your paycheck and at age 70 would close at a later age, meaning there would be a greater chance that you would not survive until then.

This Social Security calculator can help you estimate how much you could earn annually.

Bottom line

While the average age for retired workers to take Social Security is 65, that doesn’t mean it’s the best option for you. You’ll need to consider your own financial needs and circumstances. To that end, working with a financial advisor can help you make smart choices with minimal trade-offs. Bankrate’s financial advisor matching tool can help match you with an advisor in minutes.