This Could Be the Best Reason Not to Claim Social Security Early

Working longer can give you a fatter nest egg. But there's an even better argument for not retiring early.

This Could Be the Best Reason Not to Claim Social Security Early Photo by zimmytws /

Up to now, perhaps the most compelling argument for delaying retirement was the bigger Social Security checks you would collect for the rest of your life.

But there’s a benefit that may top those fatter payouts: a longer life.

Folks who claim their Social Security benefits early are more likely to die earlier, according to recent research out of the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research.

Claiming Social Security early

For the study, researchers from Cornell University and the University of Melbourne homed in on folks who claim Social Security benefits at age 62.

That is the earliest age at which you are eligible to start receiving retirement benefits. It’s also the age at which about one-third of Americans claim their benefits, according to the researchers.

While retiring at 62 might sound swell, there’s a financial trade-off to weigh. If you claim retirement benefits before reaching what Uncle Sam considers your “full retirement age” — 65, 66 or 67, depending on when you were born — your Social Security checks will be smaller.

You can read all about this in “14 Ways to Maximize Your Social Security Checks.”

The researchers also examined mortality data for the U.S. population, including dates of birth and death.

The researchers found a 2 percent increase in men’s deaths immediately after age 62 — which they describe as a “robust” increase. Further examination suggests this stems from the lifestyle transition from worker to retiree happening earlier in life. The researchers write:

“Additional analysis suggests that the increase in male mortality is connected to retirement from the labor force and associated lifestyle changes.”

For women, the change in the death rate was “smaller and imprecisely estimated,” according to the study.

The best age at which to claim Social Security

So, if your claiming age is not just a financial matter but possibly a matter of life and death, what’s the best age at which to claim Social Security retirement benefits? That depends on your situation — including the state of your finances and health.

For example, folks in a financial bind may have no choice but to claim as soon as possible. And those who expect their lifespan to be shortened by medical conditions may be wise to claim early.

For many, however, it’s best to wait until as late as age 70 to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits.

Perhaps the one universal truth about claiming Social Security benefits is that you are the best person to make the decision. After all, only you fully understand the scope of your finances and health. But the more informed you are before making this decision, the better choice you will make.

In other words, if you have yet to claim retirement benefits, do your homework first. Start by reading articles like “Ask Stacy: Do I Really Need to Wait Until Age 70 to Collect Social Security?

Then, consider whether you would benefit from expert assistance. There are companies that specialize in providing guidance to people who are trying to navigate the foray into Social Security retirement benefits.

You can read about one such option for help — called Social Security Choices — on Money Talks News’ “Maximize Your Social Security” page.

What is your take on the best time to claim Social Security benefits? Sound off by commenting below or 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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