More Americans Waiting to Claim Social Security Benefits

New research shows more people are opting to delay claiming Social Security. But should you follow them?

More Americans Waiting to Claim Social Security Benefits Photo (cc) by 401(K) 2013

Large numbers of Americans first claim their Social Security benefits as early as possible — age 62 — but an increasing number are waiting until they’re older, according to a recent analysis by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.

Based on their analysis of U.S. Social Security Administration data from 2013, the authors of the report, “Trends in Social Security Claiming,” found that:

  • At age 62: 48 percent of women and 42 percent of men made their initial claim for Social Security benefits.
  • At full retirement age (65 or 66, depending on the retiree’s birth year): 27 percent of women and 34 percent of men made initial claims.

At all other age levels, no more than 8 percent of either men or women made their initial claim.

However, it appears that people increasingly are making their initial claim for benefits later than their counterparts in earlier generations.

When the authors compared people who turned 62 in 1985 with people who turned 62 in 2010, for example, they found 16.6 percent fewer women and 8.2 percent fewer men in those age brackets began claiming Social Security benefits in 2010 compared with in 1985.

In addition, they found 10.9 percent more women and 12.5 percent more men in those groups were waiting until full retirement age before claiming benefits.

Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson has done the math. While there are circumstances where it makes sense to take Social Security early, he generally advises waiting to make a claim. As he says in “Ask Stacy: Why Should I Wait Until Age 70 to Collect Social Security?“:

“If you take Social Security when you turn 62, you’ll get 25 percent less than if you wait until you turn 66. If you wait until 70, you’ll get 32 percent more than if you took your benefits at 66, and 76 percent more than you’d have gotten at 62.”

Philip Moeller, co-author of the book “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” writes in Money magazine that he is cheered by the Center for Retirement Research’s findings:

“People should consider deferring their Social Security benefits and see how doing so would affect their retirement plan. But the key word in that sentence is ‘plan.’ You need one, and it should include figuring out the best Social Security strategy for you, not what’s best for other retirees.”

Moeller says factors to research and weigh when making your Social Security plans can include:

  • The cost of early claiming before your full retirement age, which is now 66.
  • Tax benefits associated with your claiming age.
  • Your expected lifespan, as well as that of your spouse.
  • Family-related liabilities you might face in retirement, such as children who will still be in school.

To learn more, check out “Are Your Social Security Benefits Taxable?” and “16 Ways to Get Bigger Social Security Checks.”

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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