This Is the Average Social Security Benefit for a 70-Year-Old

Most Americans become eligible to claim Social Security when they turn 62. But if you want to make the most of your benefits, you might want to wait until you reach 70.

The differences can be quite stark. Retirees could see up to a 77% increase in the sizes of their monthly checks by waiting that extra eight years to collect them. And while you might not think waiting is worth it, it happens to work out in the majority of cases.

Here's what the average retiree receives in Social Security benefits at age 70.

A hand holding an envelope containing a check from the United States Treasury.

Image source: Getty Images.

The biggest factors determining your Social Security benefits

There are only a few inputs that go into calculating your monthly Social Security benefit.

  • Your earnings history for your 35 highest-earning years (on an inflation-adjusted basis).
  • Your full retirement age.
  • The age at which you apply for benefits.

Your employers report your wages to the government annually. (Your copies of that data are the W-2 forms that show up in the mail around this time of year.) The Social Security Administration keeps that information. When it comes time to calculate your Social Security benefit, it adjusts every year's earnings to account for inflation and then takes the average of your 35 highest-earning years. That number gets plugged into the Social Security benefits formula to determine your primary insurance amount.

Your primary insurance amount is the amount you'd receive if you claimed benefits in the month you reach your full retirement age. Your full retirement age depends on when you were born. Those born in 1954 or earlier reached full retirement at age 66. However, the full retirement age increases by two months for every year you were born after 1954 before maxing out at age 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

While you might not reach full retirement age until you're 66 or 67, you can claim at any point once you turn 62. But if you claim before your full retirement age, you'll receive less than your primary insurance amount. For each month early you claim, your checks will shrink by a fraction of a percent. On the other hand, delaying beyond your full retirement age will provide a boost to your monthly check. Each month that you delay adds another 0.67% to your Social Security checks, so each year that you delay adds 8%.

Here's a table detailing what that looks like for someone with a full retirement age of 67.

Claiming Age Check Size as a Percentage
of Primary Insurance Amount
62 70%
63 75%
64 80%
65 86.67%
66 93.33%
67 100%
68 108%
69 116%
70 or older 124%

Data source: Social Security Administration. Calculations by Author.

Here's the average benefit at age 70

As you can see, those who delay taking Social Security until 70 can end up with substantially larger monthly benefits than those who claim early, all else being equal.

That shows up in the data. The average Social Security benefit for a 70-year-old was $1,963.48 in December 2022, according to the most recent data from the Social Security Administration. That compares to just $1,274.87 for the average 62-year-old claiming benefits.

However, that only tells half the story. Since that group of about 3 million 70-year-old retirees also includes anyone who claimed earlier than 70, the average benefit is skewed lower than those who waited until 70 to apply for Social Security.

There were nearly 309,000 retirees who waited until at least age 70 to apply for Social Security benefits in 2022. The average monthly benefit they received that year was $3,027.00. Meanwhile, the 808,000 people who applied for benefits at age 62 received an average of just $1,287.61. That's a difference of $20,873 per year. There's a lot you could do with that extra money in retirement.

A paper titled Social Security Benefits Application.

Image source: Getty Images.

It's worth pointing out, however, that the difference between the average Social Security benefit awarded to new applicants at 62 is less than half the average for new applicants at 70 or older. But the math shows you can only increase your benefit by 77% -- the 124% of PIA you get by waiting until 70 divided by the 70% of PIA you get claiming early at age 62 equals about 1.77. That means the average person claiming at 62 has a lower primary insurance amount than the average person who waits until 70. That speaks to the circumstances that might push someone to claim earlier versus later.

Someone claiming at 62 may have had their career cut short by health issues or a layoff. They might have had below-average wages during their working years and been unable to save as much for retirement. That could make them feel like they need Social Security just to get by in the early years of retirement, even if it means permanently reducing the size of their already-smaller Social Security checks. There's nothing inherently wrong with filing early under those circumstances.

However, if you were fortunate enough to work a full career and save plenty for retirement, it likely would make a lot of sense for you to wait until 70 to claim your benefits. Even though it means giving up eight years worth of monthly checks, it usually works out better for most retirees in the long run in terms of the total amount of benefits they get from the program over the course of their lives. A 2019 study from United Income found that 57% of retirees would maximize their chances of affording their retirement by delaying benefits until age 70.

So, if you're on the fence about whether to wait to claim and maximize your Social Security benefit, know that it's usually worth waiting if you can afford to do so.

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