Milestone Birthdays in Retirement

April 8, 2022

Milestone Birthdays in Retirement

April 8, 2022

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Last Updated: April 9, 2024

When we’re young, each birthday seems special, but for most of us, birthdays lose their luster as we age. Can we bring some of that magic—a definition that surely changes as we get older from toys and treats to more adult concerns like saving money and living the retirement of our dreams—back? Remember these particularly special “birthdays” to capitalize on life after work.

What are the milestone “birthdays” in your retirement years to keep on your radar?

Turning 50 – Can make catch-up contributions

People 50 and older can make catch-up contributions up to an extra $7,500 each year to their 401(k)s or 403(b)s for a total contribution of up to $30,500. For IRAs and Roth IRAs, those aged 50 and older can contribute an additional $1,000 for a $8,000 total maximum annual contribution.

Turning 59½ – 10% early withdrawal penalty goes away for 401(k)s and IRAs

At 59½, you can take withdrawals from IRAs and workplace retirement plans without penalties. Some 401(k) plans also allow employees at least 59½ years old to do an in-service rollover, allowing one to move money into an IRA while still working and contributing to their current 401(k).

Turning 60 – Eligible for Social Security survivor benefits

For most widows and widowers, 60 is the earliest age they can begin taking Social Security survivor benefits. However, it is important to remember that waiting beyond age 60 to turn on Social Security benefits can be mean an increase in the overall monthly payment you receive. As everyone’s case is unique, it’s best to consult with your advisor or financial professional regarding these benefits.

*Note – Survivor benefits are available starting at age 50 for spousal survivors with a disability or at any age if the surviving spouse cares for the deceased spouse’s child(ren) under age 16 or disabled.

Turning 62 – Initial eligibility for Social Security

Age 62 is the soonest age at which you can begin taking Social Security retirement or spousal benefits. Keep in mind that your checks will be permanently reduced if you start your benefits before your full retirement, or FRA, ranging from 66–67. Waiting until your full retirement age to begin claiming benefits also allows you to skip the Social Security benefits earnings test, which reduces your benefit by $1 for every $2 you earn over a certain amount if you’re claiming Social Security while still working and make over a certain amount of money.  We recommend consulting with your financial or investment advisor prior to starting your Social Security benefits.

Want to check your FRA? Follow this link:



Turning 65 – Eligible for Medicare coverage

Most Americans are eligible for Medicare3, the U.S. government’s health care program, at 65. Generally, you’ll want to sign up somewhere from the three months before the month you turn 65, the month you turn 65, and the three months after. If you delay, this can result in increased premiums—permanently. Medicare is a whole separate and extensive topic, and as there can be many specific requirements to Medicare (Medi-Cal for those residing in California), call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) or visit or to learn more.

Turning 66 or 67 – Social Security’s full retirement age, depending on the year you were born

For those born between 1943 and 1954, full retirement age is 66, increases two months for each age between 1954–1960, and reaches 67 for those born in or after 1960. Again, waiting to take your Social Security benefits until at least your FRA means not sacrificing your full eligible payments due starting your benefits early or because of earned income.

Turning 70 – Eligible for maximum Social Security benefits

A big benefit awaits those who delay starting their Social Security until their full retirement age or after: Their benefit increases by 8% annually, maxing out at age 70. This means more money for the rest of your life; it also means your spouse’s survivor benefit is maximized if you are the higher earner in a couple.

Turning 73 – Required minimum distributions must start from most retirement accounts

Most contributions to retirement plans, like 401(k)s, reduce your tax obligations in the year you make them—not to mention that your account keeps growing tax-deferred over the years. But sooner or later, Uncle Sam will want his cut, too. At age 73, you are required to start taking a minimum distribution (abbreviated RMD for required minimum distribution – read more about those here) from most retirement plans, excluding Roth IRAs.

A couple of exceptions to remember:

  • If you continue working, you can wait until you retire to start taking required minimum distributions from your 401(k) or 403(b) if you’re still employed by the company sponsoring your qualified plan (rolling your 401(k) from previous employers into your current plan will help ensure you don’t have to take RMDs if you’re still working). Minimum distributions from traditional IRAs, however, are still required, even if you are working.
  • Roth IRAs do not require RMDs at any age. If you do leave money to your heirs though, they will have to start taking withdrawals according to the IRS’s inherited IRA rules.

While we wish you many Happy Birthdays to come, these “special” years are worth taking extra note of—possibly gifting yourself with increased retirement income and avoided IRS penalties!

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United States Census Bureau (2022). (March 2022).

Medicare. gov (2022).