As of January 1, the Social Security Administration began phasing in an increase in the age at which retirees can receive full benefits, from 65 to 67. Congress passed a law in 1983 mandating these changes begin taking effect in January, 2000.

Industry observers believe the delay in full Social Security benefits will be yet another wake-up call to Americans to begin taking responsibility for their retirement savings, and could result in marginal net new asset inflows to the mutual fund industry.

"This is yet more proof to people that Social Security will be unsatisfactory to rely on when you retire," said Dennis Dolego, director of research at Optima Group of Wilton, Conn., a mutual fund distribution consulting and research company. The mutual fund industry can use this news from the Social Security Administration as yet another marketing tool, Dolego said.

Sixty-two will continue to be the earliest age at which individuals can retire and receive Social Security benefits. At 62, retirees will continue to recieve only partial benefits. However, the age at which people will be able to collect full benefits will gradually increase from the previous age of 65, prior to January 2000, to age 67 by 2022.

For instance, a person born in 1938, who would turn 62 this year, will not be able to receive full Social Security benefits (currently an average of $780 a month) until the age of 65 and two months. A person born in 1942 will have to wait for full benefits until they reach the age of 65 years and 10 months. All individuals born in the year 1960 or later will not be eligible for full benefits until they are 67.

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