When to claim Social Security retirement benefits is one of the most crucial financial decisions facing older workers. But not everyone makes informed choices. The timing of the claim is key. The earlier a worker files to receive Social Security, the lower the monthly payment for the rest of that worker’s life. The longer a worker waits, the larger the benefit. Workers can claim as early as 62, but face a permanent reduction of benefits for every year they file before full retirement age of 66 (soon to be 67). Even so, nearly half of American workers claim Social Security benefits at 62, and a cumulative 60% claim before full retirement age – electing to accept a significant loss of income for the remainder of their lives.