Most Workers Plan to Claim Social Security Early

Retirees who sign up early get permanently smaller checks.

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Social Security checks are reduced if you claim before your full retirement age. For most current working Americans that’s age 66 or 67. But many workers don’t want to or are unable to wait until then to collect their payments. The majority of current employees are planning to claim a smaller benefit before their full retirement age.

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Most current workers plan to claim their due at age 65 (30 percent) or at age 64 or younger (28 percent), according to a recently released survey of 2,000 Americans ages 25 to 65 conducted by Mathew Greenwald and Associates and the Pension Research Council at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. All of the survey respondents are entitled to full retirement benefits at either age 66 or 67. But the average planned claiming age is 63 and the median planned retirement age is 65. Signing up for Social Security at this age will generally result in permanently reduced checks for the rest of their lives.

For all Americans born after 1937 the full retirement age is no longer age 65. The age workers can claim the full amount of Social Security due to them was gradually increased from 65 and 2 months for those born in 1938 to 65 and 10 months for 1942-born workers. The full retirement age is 66 for those born between 1943 and 1954. For people born after that the retirement age gradually increases until it reaches 67 for those born in 1960 or later. However, only 11 percent of workers plan to wait until age 66 or 67 to claim their due, the survey found.

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Retirement benefits further increase for each year workers delay claiming their benefits until age 70. Some 15 percent of workers say they plan to claim at age 68 or later in order to get the highest possible benefit check. There is no additional incentive to delay your start date after age 70.

Only 3 percent of workers say they never plan to claim the Social Security checks they are entitled to. Another 12 percent of employees admit that they don’t know when they will claim. Just over a third (36 percent) of the respondents to the 20-minute telephone survey indicate they do not understand that their benefit will depend on their claiming age.

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Most of the workers surveyed (59 percent) plan to claim their Social Security benefits and retire in the same year. But you don’t necessarily need to sign up upon retirement. Some 29 percent of current employees plan to retire before they begin receiving Social Security payments. Another 12 percent of workers plan to claim their due before they retire, which could impact the amount they receive each month.