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Stop, Look & Listen: Railroad Retirement Benefits Q&A

Answers are provided by Robert S. Kaufman

Picking the Best Time to Start Retirement Benefits

(Posted August 18, 2006)

Question 586: I worked for 19 years under Railroad Retirement. I then worked for about 20 years under Social Security. I paid the maximum under both plans. I recently met with a Railroad Retirement Board rep to plan my retirement start date. During our conversation, she claimed that I can start my Railroad Retirement at 62 and that my Social Security will continue to accrue. She said that at some point (age) my social security likely will exceed my retirement benefit and that I can opt to draw the higher social security benefit at any time.

This sounds too good to be true. I had planned to wait until 65 to begin drawing my Railroad Retirement, but if the repersentative's story is correct it makes sense to start at 62 and switch to social security later. Can you confirm or deny the accuracy of the agent's statement?

Answer: You can draw either Railroad Retirement or Social Security as early as 62. But the benefits are reduced by as much as 25% if they start before you reach your "normal retirement age," which is between 65 and 67, depending upon your birth year.

By drawing Railroad Retirement at 62 and waiting until your normal retirement age to draw Social Security, you could receive a higher Social Security benefit. Remember, your Railroad Retirement Tier 1 always will be reduced by the amount of your Social Security.

You should ask both Railroad Retirement and Social Security for exact estimates of: (1) what you could draw at 62; and (2) by waiting until you reach your normal retirement age, when you could receive full benefits without any reduction for age.

Important notice:

Answers are provided as general guidance on the subjects covered in the question and are not provided as legal advice to the questioner or to readers. Any legal issues should be reviewed by your legal counsel to apply the law to the particular facts of this and similar situations.

The law in this area changes frequently. Answers are believed to be correct as of the posting dates shown. The completeness or accuracy of a particular answer may be affected by changes in the law (statutes, regulations, rulings, court decisions, etc.) that occur after the date on which a particular Q&A is posted.

Copyright 1997-2017 Robert S. Kaufman
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