In recent years many Americans have been rethinking their retirement plans and when they should start collecting their Social Security benefits. Changes in the economy, changes in the workforce, and a sense of financial insecurity are all impacting the decisions that workers are making about Social Security.
But some people who choose to take Social Security benefits early could be losing as much as 30% of the total benefit. Thus, it’s important for all workers to understand how Social Security benefits work so that they can make a decision that will maximize their benefits and not leave behind benefits that they’ve earned.
The Temptation of Early Social Security Claims
According to a poll done by the Nationwide Retirement Institute on U.S. workers aged 26 and older, 42% of them indicated they’re planning to file for Social Security benefits early as they continue to work—up from 36% who said the same in 2021. And 26% of baby boomers that were polled said that they plan to take their Social Security benefit early and continue to work. Only 39% of the baby boomers polled said that they intend to wait until the full retirement age to draw benefits so that they can draw their maximum benefit amount.
Most workers cite economic pressure as the reason why they intent to draw their Social Security benefits early. They know they will get a smaller benefit but would rather take a smaller benefit and have the security of knowing they’d have a benefit every month.
But workers may not realize how much money they are losing by taking their Social Security early. According to financial experts many workers don’t understand that they could lose as much as 30% of the benefits that they’re entitled to if they choose to take their benefits early.
The Counterargument: Delayed Retirement Pays Off
It’s easy to understand why people are considering taking their Social Security benefit as soon as they can. Inflation has been a consistent problem during the pandemic recovery and people are feeling the economic pinch.
But the benefits of waiting until full retirement age to draw Social Security are substantial. Waiting just a few years to draw that money can significantly increase the amount of the benefit. Today the average Social Security benefit monthly is $1,827 per month. But people who wait until full retirement age could collect a benefit of up to $3,627 per month.
In addition to drawing a bigger benefit experts warn workers that longer life expectancy could mean that they will be relying on their Social Security benefits for longer than they think. Choosing to take a smaller benefit could impact their quality of life in the future.
In order to have a stable income that will pay for living expenses throughout their retirement years workers really should consider putting off drawing their Social Security benefit until they reach the full retirement age. For most people the full retirement age, depending on when they were born, is now 67 or 68.
Factors Shaping Early Claims and Abandoned Retirement Funds
Fewer workers these days have strong retirement accounts to rely on when they get older, which is another factor that can influence the decision of when to take Social Security. The massive increase in the number of people who are working as freelancers or contractors has increased the number of workers without any stable retirement income. For those people, Social Security benefits may be their primary source of financial stability in retirement.
Workers who want to make sure that they are leaving an inheritance for their children also may choose to draw Social Security funds early so that they can continue building the inheritance they want to leave behind. With so many younger workers struggling to be able to afford to buy homes or take care of their children’s futures, their parents may prioritize leaving behind substantial inheritances to help them.
Traditionally, people have invested their retirement funds to grow their retirement accounts and protect their financial future. But fluctuations in the economy have made many people afraid to risk investing the bulk of their existing retirement funds. Instead, they are choosing a safer approach that relies on the stability of Social Security payments.
One of the misconceptions people have about Social Security is that the Social Security benefit is meant to support someone after they retire. Social Security benefits were not meant to be someone’s sole source of income in their retirement years. Social Security benefits were created to supplement a worker’s personal savings and retirement funds.
To make sure that today’s workers understand both the role of Social Security benefits and the substantial benefits of waiting until full retirement age to draw benefits financial planners and organizations are doing their best to educate workers about their Social Security options. Choosing to draw benefits early may provide some short-term peace of mind but it could cause financial hardship in the future.
Balancing Personal Priorities
It’s important for people who are getting close to retirement age or who are planning for their futures to understand how Social Security benefits work so that they can make the best choice for their unique personal circumstances. A customized approach to retirement planning is essential.
For many workers a hybrid strategy that combines taking Social Security early with other income streams like part-time work or a personal savings account may be a good option. But other workers may benefit from continuing to work until full retirement age to make sure they are getting their maximum benefit amount.
As the retirement landscape continues to evolve, the trend of early Social Security claims and unutilized retirement funds unveils a complex interplay of financial, emotional, and health-related factors. While the allure of immediate financial relief persists, the potential advantages of delayed claims and effective retirement planning cannot be overlooked. By bridging the information gap, understanding the nuances, and aligning decisions with individual objectives, Americans can make informed choices that best suit their long-term financial security and well-being.
- Why Americans plan to take Social Security earlier, and even leave retirement money behind – USA Today
- Wait until age 70 to claim Social Security: ‘The return on being patient is huge,’ says economist – CNBC
- More Americans plan to tap Social Security retirement benefits early and continue working amid economic uncertainty, survey finds – CNBC