How Long Do You Have to Work Before You Can Receive Retirement Benefits?

The amount of time that you have to work before receiving retirement benefits will differ depending on what type of retirement account you have and who you work for. Some people take advantage of a pension plan, while others save for their own retirement through a tax-advantaged retirement account. Both of these options provide different times when you could potentially start receiving retirement benefits.


Retirement Accounts

One of the more popular options to save for retirement is a tax-advantaged retirement account such as an IRA or a 401k. These accounts allow you to set aside money and then withdraw it once you reach retirement age. As of 2010, the age at which you can access these accounts without any type of penalty is 59 1/2. The only exception to this rule is with the Roth IRA. With the Roth IRA, you also have to wait five years after opening the account to access it.


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Defined Benefit

Another type of retirement plan is the defined-benefit plan. This is also sometimes referred to as a pension plan. With this type of retirement plan, you have to work a specified number of years in order to receive a particular benefit. Each plan is different, and your employer will give you information about how long you have to work in order to receive your retirement benefits. For example, you may have to work for 20 years before you get full benefits.


Social Security

Another retirement component is Social Security. The Social Security Administration is a government entity that provides benefits to retirees in the United States. While the benefit is usually not enough to live comfortably on, it can supplement your other retirement income. You can begin to take benefits from Social Security at the age of 62. If you want to receive full benefits from Social Security, you may have to wait until you are 65 or 66 depending on when you were born.



Annuities are another type of retirement tool that some people use. This type of investment will provide you with a regular payment once you reach retirement age. Annuities are also allowed to grow tax-free just like an IRA or a 401k. With an annuity, you can start receiving payments from it once you reach the age of 59 1/2. If you access the money sooner, you will have to pay an early distribution penalty.


Personal Factors

Even though you can technically access your money at age 59 1/2, you may not be able to stop working at that point. You have to look at how much money you need in order to live a comfortable life during your retirement years. Some people have to work until they are 65 or 70 before they can set aside enough money to live on. Sitting down with a retirement planner can help you determine how much you need to save.