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The most popular ages to claim Social Security

Experts warn us against automatically signing up for benefits the minute we are eligible, but do we listen? Signs suggest some of us may be beginning to heed that advice.

By MSN Smart Spending editor Sep 9, 2013 12:17PM
This post comes from Emily Brandon at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

USNews logoThe age you begin to collect Social Security benefits affects the payments you will receive for the rest of your life. Checks are reduced if you sign up as soon as possible at age 62, but are increased if you delay claiming up until age 70. Here's when most people sign up for Social Security:

Senior man (© Brand X Pictures/Jupiterimages)Age 62

A smaller proportion of people have been claiming Social Security at age 62 in recent years, but it continues to be the most popular age to begin receiving payments.

Some 45% of men born in 1943 and 1944 signed up for retirement benefits at age 62, down from 50% of people born between 1938 and 1942, and a peak of 57% of men born between 1930 and 1934, according to a 2013 Urban Institute analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data.

The share of women claiming Social Security benefits at age 62 has also declined over the past decade, but women continue to be more likely to claim early than men. Half of women born in 1943 or 1944 claimed at age 62, compared with 60% of those born between 1935 and 1937.

Social Security benefits are reduced for workers who sign up at age 62, and the amount of the reduction has recently increased from 20% for people born in 1937 or earlier to 25% for baby boomers born between 1943 and 1954. "If you claim earlier you are getting more of a penalty now than you used to," says Richard Johnson, a senior fellow and director of the program on retirement policy at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan research firm.

The reduction in benefits for people claiming at age 62 will further increase to 30% for everyone born in 1960 or later under current law.

Age 65

Signing up for Social Security at age 65 is declining in popularity, but the age many people associate with retirement remains the second-most popular claiming age among women and third among men. Nearly a quarter (24%) of men born between 1935 and 1937 signed up for Social Security at age 65, which is the age workers born in 1937 or earlier qualified for unreduced Social Security benefits.

But retirement at 65 declined to 14% of those born in 1943 and 1944, whose full retirement age increased to 66. People born between 1943 and 1954 get 6.7% smaller checks if they claim at age 65. The proportion of women signing up at age 65 stayed roughly constant throughout the period studied at about 16%.

However, about twice as many people claim Social Security at age 65 as at either ages 63 or 64, perhaps because Medicare eligibility begins at 65 and allows people whose health insurance is tied to their employment to retire. "Most people can't afford to stop working unless they have access to health benefits," Johnson says. "Even if they would prefer to stop working and collect Social Security sooner, they might need to wait until 65."

Age 66

Claiming Social Security at age 66 has recently surged in popularity, due to the increase in the full retirement age to 66 for everyone born between 1943 and 1954. Some 19% of men and 13% of women born in 1943 and 1944 signed up at age 66, compared to about 1% among earlier groups of retirees.

"It's striking how many people sign up in the month at which they reach the full retirement age," Johnson says. "The fact that the government has said that 66 and 0 months is the retirement age really seems to resonate with people. The government, just by how they frame the issue, can really induce people's retirement ages."

Age 66 is when most baby boomers will qualify for the full amount of Social Security they have earned. "If they decide to wait until full retirement age, which would be 66 right now, then they won't have any reduction going forward," says Samantha Macchia, a certified financial planner for Summit Financial Strategies in Columbus, Ohio.

"If at all possible, and certainly if you are still in the workforce, you should wait until your full retirement age at least." Age 66 is also the first year that your benefit will not be temporarily withheld if you work and claim Social Security benefits at the same time.

67 or later

Only 6% of men and 5% of women born in 1943 and 1944 signed up for Social Security at age 67 or later, the Urban Institute found. But the benefits of further delaying your Social Security payments can be enormous. Payments increase by 8% for each year of delayed claiming up until age 70.

After age 70 there is no additional financial incentive to delay starting your payments. Carl von dem Bussche, a certified financial planner for Financial Guidance Group in Palm Harbor, Fla., says he doesn't plan on taking Social Security until age 70 because of the 8% accumulation rate between ages 66 and 70. "It's a pretty nice return if you have the finances in place to be able to delay it, and that's a risk-free return on your money," he says. "If you have had cancer and you are ill, then it's better to get some of your benefit than none of your benefit. If you have longevity in your family, then it often makes sense to choose to take your benefit later."

More from U.S. News & World Report:

Sep 9, 2013 3:18PM
Not everyone lives up to 70s, don't wait until you are 6 feet under then claiming SSI, you can't spend money when you are down there, enjoy life when you can.  Do whatever right for you people,  don't let anyone telling you otherwise, it's your money that you paid while you were working.
Sep 9, 2013 5:05PM
I'm 63, totally out of debt, money in the bank and come Oct. 31st. I'm retired.  YES!!!!!!
Sep 9, 2013 3:05PM

Triplets claimed Social Security at three different ages: 62, 66, and 70. They'd all worked the same job and had identical earnings; none claimed disability.


The actuarial tables for these folks said their statistical lifespan would be 82 years. At age 82, the three triplets were simultaneously killed in a tragic train wreck.


QUESTION: Which of the triplets collected the most Social Security?


ANSWER: It's a trick question. At the point of actuarial life expectancy, all recipients have collected the SAME AMOUNT regardless of when they began collecting. Obviously, those living well beyond their statistical lifespan would bet a winning bet the longer they delayed their annuity. And just as obviously, those living less than their statistical lifespan would bet the winning bet the sooner they began collecting their (discounted) payments.


You need to know how long folks on both sides of your family tend to live; and what is the presence of chronic illness such as morbid obesity, Type I diabetes, early onset heart disease, etc., in both sides of your family.


Marriage with a spouse who will also collect SS is another factor in deciding when to begin collecting--and, which partner's annuity should be begun first.


In the final analysis, it may make the most sense to collect at an earlier or a later date. But only the totality of your circumstances--not just "They discount for collecting before age 70!"--can indicate the correct course of action for you.

Sep 9, 2013 5:04PM

The only group that wants you to wait is the Government. They have your money and don't want to give it back, that's why they keep increasing the retirement age.



Sep 9, 2013 4:16PM
I intend to semi retire when I am 62 and work part time.  My husband is younger and can put me on his insur. until I am 65.  If I make it that long!  I am almost 59 now never know, that's why I am choosing 62, you only live once!
Sep 9, 2013 4:24PM

If you can't find meaningful employment you take it when needed.  If you were a saver and have little or no debt (I have 0 debt) then at 63 and no prospect for real work I have started my SS.  I can live off less with 0 debt and $500K in 401K's and both traditional and Roth IRA'S.  Don't purchase new cars and am happy to be out of the rat race.


It is more about getting into financial shape then the size of your monthly SS benefit.


Keep being a slave to the lender and your toys and you will never be able to retire.


OH, and I have a flip phone W/O a camera.  If you truly want to talk with me leave a message and I will call back.  I like friends who want to talk in person if close by.  You know one on one and face to face; not FACEBOOK, unless you are far away then OK.

Sep 9, 2013 3:08PM
I suppose a lot of people wait until 65 so they can also get some Medicare healthcare coverage.
Anyone ever try to buy healthcare at 62 or over especially if you have ANY kind of
problem like high blood pressure, thyroid, etc.  Most people can't afford 900+ monthly premium.
Sep 9, 2013 5:45PM
How many of your friends and co-workers are now dead or just about there?  I'm talking NORMAL people that work for a living. For me, a lot have passed and a lot more are almost there. Most didn't get to see 60. Many never made it past 65. Again, these are WORKING class people.
Sep 9, 2013 6:44PM
Who was the brilliant rocket scientist that lets all the scum bags who never paid in the system draw out of it!!!!!!!!!!!!  Get them off problem solved!!!!!!!  i'm retiring at 62 it's time they take care of me!!!!!
Sep 9, 2013 5:58PM
Contrary to what all the corporate funded think tanks claim time is by far more valuable than money or than playing the role of corporate slave. Save your money and retire at 62 even if you have to live a no frills lifestyle, don't worry about missing out on a little Social Security when your 90.
Sep 9, 2013 8:24PM
The article doesn't mention that you can retire at 62 and still make up to $14,400 a year working part time without losing any benefits. That changes the math a bit.
Sep 9, 2013 5:19PM
I'am collecting my first chk as soon as I turn 62 if it isn't delayed any who know's with the around 8 month's but no guarentee it'll be here in 8 month's either that's 8 month's abomination has to steal it in.Last time they sent out the projection of what I'd get if I was 62 at that time and what I'd get waitng till 65 to start collecting .keep in mind if you start at 62 you got a 3 yr jump on waiting till 65,It took me to 73or74 to catch up and break even with the 100 buck's or whatever pittiance more waitng till 65 to start collecting you gain.And what guarentee does anybody have they'll live to see 65.My Uncle taught me a lesson 30 yrz ago I nvr forgot he was gonna wait till 65 to retire and get the big buck's at 64 lacking one month of being 65.he had a massive hrt.attack and died on the side of I-5 by seattle ,nvr drew a dime .and my Aunt couldn't draw on him cause she was 10 yrz to young and by the time she was old enough she was re-married so the fed's beat him and her outta every penny he payed in.And if he'd retired at 62 at least they wouldn't got to beat him outta every penny he had coming.That ain't happening to me if I can help it course no guarentee I'll live for another 8 month's either or another 10 yrz.
Sep 9, 2013 8:28PM
My Social Security is a pitifully small amount regardless of retirement age because I've had relatively low paying jobs most of my life.  I took it early because I was tired, and have no regrets.  A few extra bucks by waiting until 65 didn't make a bit of sense.
Sep 9, 2013 9:45PM
I have worked forty years. The government has shafted me in many different ways so bad I have a hard time sitting down. At 65 ,I am done. Give me the money and keep your warnings for a younger, more gullible age group.
Sep 9, 2013 7:09PM
Just think about it.  If we all go on welfare we can retire immediately and have the best health insurance tax dollars can buy!!!
Sep 9, 2013 9:07PM
When is the best time to start collecting your Social Security?  The first chance you get, of course.  Not only could you die or be killed in an accident at any time, but the way our government is currently operating, they could decide one day to just take all the money "for the good of the country" as we continue to go further and futher into debt.
Sep 9, 2013 7:00PM
If people delay retirement it probably cause they are taking care of their kids and grandkids and cannot afford to  retire and live on less and pay the extra SS benefits one is penalized. I plan on getting mine as early as possible before Congress spends us into oblivion.
Sep 9, 2013 7:26PM

I guess one might rationalize that it's better to get 75% to 80% of something rather than 0% of anything if SS goes Belly-Up.



Sep 9, 2013 4:33PM
Social Security was created as a ponzi scheme!  The life expectancy was 59.9 for men and 63.9 for women in 1935.  The government knew it then!!!!
How about 969 years (the age at which Methuselah died)?  The way the Government keeps raising the retirement age, you'll be half-past dead before you qualify!  I knew Social Security was a Ponzi Scheme!  The Government levies the SS tax, just so they can steal the money and think of lame excuses not to pay it back!  "Thou shalt not steal."
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