The message about waiting to claim Social Security is getting through. New calculations released today by Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research show that the percentage of workers waiting until older ages to take retirement benefits from Uncle Sam has risen dramatically.
The earliest a worker can claim Social Security retirement benefits is 62, but the monthly check increases for every month you wait until your 70th birthday, and it usually pays to wait for at least some of that period, with the best claiming age varying with your finances, health and marital status. (Whole books have been written about the myriad strategies retirees, particularly couples and those who were once married, can use to exploit Social Security rules and maximize their benefits.)
In 2013, of those baby boomers turning 62 (meaning, they were born in 1951), just 35.6% of men and 39.5% of women put in for Social Security retirement benefits, the new numbers show. That’s a dramatic drop since 1996, when 56% of men and 62.8% of women who turned 62 put in a claim.
The percentage of workers claiming as early as possible began a gradual decline after 1996, but spiked during the Great Recession when some laid off older folks were forced to “retire” earlier than they’d planned. (While workers are indeed retiring later, they still, on average, end up retiring before they planned. That’s true even when the economy isn’t in the dumps, making it dangerous to save less on the assumption you’ll make up the difference by working until an older age.)
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