When applying for social security benefits timing is everything. The age at which you begin collecting benefits can greatly affect how much money you receive each month.
Social Security Poll: What Matters Most to You?Find: 11 Social Security Mistakes That Can Cost You a Fortune
The rule of thumb is the earlier you decide to take distributions, the smaller your monthly check will be if you waited until full retirement age — or the maximum age of 70 — to take advantage of benefits.
According to the Social Security Administration, the earliest you can be eligible to receive benefits is 62 years of age — but you must be 62 for the entire month. This means if you turn 62 on the 28th of the month, you must wait until the next month to claim benefits for the first time.
If you were born on the first or second day of the month, you meet this requirement at the moment of your 62nd birthday. If you were born on any other day of the month, you do not meet this requirement until the following month.
The SSA states you can apply up to four months before you want your retirement benefits to start. This is the earliest you can apply for social security benefits to make sure your benefits begin to distribute as soon as you reach 62. For example, if you turn 62 on Dec. 2, you can start your benefits as early as December and begin the application process in August.
According to the administration, even if you are not ready to retire you should still sign up for Medicare three months before your 65th birthday.
If you wait longer to claim your benefits, you can receive more in each check. Benefits are reduced up to 30% if you claim benefits at age 62 versus full retirement age. You can receive even more if you wait until age 70. The difference between taking benefits at 70 versus 62 can sometimes be $800.
To check when you should apply, you can log onto the SSA site and get an estimation of your benefit amount and learn what the difference will be if you wait to take distributions or not.
More From GOBankingRates