What is the Full Retirement Age?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Full retirement age often has most to do with the time when a country or state would give total amount of benefits earned to a retiree. This may be differently constructed in a variety of countries. In the United Kingdom, up until the mid 2000s, the standard full retirement age to receive a pension was 60 for women and 64 for men, but there has been much change in this and it is projected that by the middle of the century that age could be 68 for both genders, or higher.

The full retirement age in the U.S. has steadily increased, due to the fact that people are living longer.
The full retirement age in the U.S. has steadily increased, due to the fact that people are living longer.

In the US, when the social security program was first begun in the 1930s, people reached full retirement age at 65 and could claim the full benefit to which they were entitled. Although not everyone received benefits, people who were citizens, who had worked full time or had a spouse that worked full time, earned a pension they could begin to collect.

Full retirement age is the age at which an individual is entitled to the full level of earned benefits in retirement.
Full retirement age is the age at which an individual is entitled to the full level of earned benefits in retirement.

Of course sometimes people had to retire early, and they could do so at the age of 62, receiving less than the full retirement age benefit or a percentage of it. This was usually determined by the number of months from their actual age to full retirement age. What spouses might receive was also reduced with earlier retirement.

Since the 1940s, full retirement age has climbed steadily upward. Those born in the 1950s, for instance, would be eligible just before their 67th birthday. Those people born in the 1960s cannot get access full retirement pay until they are 67, and this number is expected go up. It’s quite possible that those born in later decades might have to be 68, 69, or 70 before they reach full retirement age.

Part of the reason for the increase is explained by the fact that many people live longer and are healthier than they once were at these ages. Another contributing factor to the change is to discourage healthier workers from drawing on the system before they actually need to, which can thus save the government a great deal of money. On the other hand, it’s argued that people are sometimes forced to retirement early because they’ve lost jobs and can’t find a replacement one (sometimes as a result of systemic age discrimination) or due to the fact that they have increasing age-related conditions that may make working difficult. If these people have inadequate savings, they may have to take early retirement, and that could have a dramatic impact on quality of living for a number of year because payments are reduced.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent wiseGEEK contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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Discussion Comments


I agree with all of you who that the retirement age should stay as it is. Actually, I wish the full retirement age would drop to 50, but I think people will survive and adjust either way. As this article points out, the idea of a mass retire plan is relatively new when you look back at history. In the U.S., the system is less than a hundred years old.


When the company my father worked for downsized, he was demoted to a lower paying position. Having worked for the same company for about 30 years, he was not happy to say the least. He was nearing 62 at the time this happened, so he ended up working a few more months and then taking early retirement.

He wasn't able to get the maximum social security benefits, but with his retirement and the partial social security he was able to retire and not worry. In fact he was collecting almost as much as he would have made if he had continued to work until he was 65 because when he was demoted he lost a large part of his salary.

I know people are living longer, but I don't like the idea of the full retirement age continuing to change. Some people are not living longer and some people are unable to work much beyond the age of 65 if that long.


This article mentions how the age of full retirement continues to go up and how that will probably continue. I think future generations will be lucky if they can receive full social security benefits in the United States when they reach 70 or 75 even.

The way the economy and the government looks now, people under 40 had better be making retirement plans that don't include social security retirement benefits because they are not going to be there. We're going to soon see the end of the monthly social security check.

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