More Americans Are Delaying Social Security Benefits — Should You?

The age at which you decide to claim Social Security benefits directly impacts the size of the monthly checks you will receive in retirement. Here's what you must know to make an informed decision.

More Americans Are Delaying Social Security Benefits — Should You? Photo by Still Life Photography /

More older Americans are waiting longer to claim Social Security benefits, according to Fidelity Investments’ latest Social Security IQ Survey.

Age 62 is the earliest you can generally begin to collect benefits, according to the U.S. Social Security Administration, or SSA. However, the survey found that among pre-retirees ages 55 to 61, only 21 percent planned to claim their benefits as early as possible. That’s down from 27 percent a decade ago.

Focusing solely on pre-retirees who were age 61, 28 percent planned to claim benefits as early as possible. That’s down significantly from 45 percent a decade ago.

On average, pre-retirees in the survey said they planned to wait until age 67 to start collecting, Fidelity says.

The significance of when you claim Social Security benefits

When you claim Social Security benefits has a big impact on the size of the check you will receive each month. If you were born after 1959, claiming early can reduce those checks by up to 30 percent, according to the SSA.

Specifically, benefits are reduced based on the number of months between the age at which someone starts collecting and their full retirement age.

Also known as “normal retirement age,” “full retirement age” is a technical term used by the SSA. It refers to the earliest claiming age at which you could receive the full amount of Social Security benefits to which you are entitled. That age ranges from 65 to 67, depending on the year you were born.

Fidelity’s survey found that only 26 percent of respondents knew their full retirement age, but there’s no excuse for that. Learning your full retirement age is as easy as taking a few seconds to read the SSA’s chart titled “Age To Receive Full Social Security Benefits.”

So when should you claim Social Security benefits?

While Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson often advises readers to postpone claiming Social Security benefits to increase the size of their monthly checks, he will also tell you that the best age to start claiming benefits varies from person to person because it depends on multiple personal factors.

As Stacy thoroughly explains in “Ask Stacy: Do I Really Need to Wait Until Age 70 to Collect Social Security?

“The point here is that while people like me use broad strokes to address mass audiences, we’re all different, and we shouldn’t all do the same thing. Some of us will die younger, and therefore should take as much as we can get as early as we can get it. Some of us will become too frail to enjoy life at 70. Some of us have jobs we can’t wait to quit, while others can’t imagine ever quitting. Some of us have substantial nest eggs, some of us don’t.”

One way to determine the best claiming age for you is to seek recommendations based on your own situation. Everyone from the SSA to Fidelity Investments offers free Social Security calculators online, and you can visit the “Maximize Your Social Security” page of the Money Talks News Solutions Center to learn how you can obtain a detailed personalized report at a discount.

Of course, further educating yourself on other factors that affect the size of your Social Security checks will also help you decide when to claim benefits. Start with:

What’s your take on the merits of delaying benefits? Sound off below or over on our Facebook page.

Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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