2007-Social-Security-CardIn a washingtonpost.com piece, Rodney Brooks, one of our best financial writers, begins by saying “I seldom write about Social Security without a huge response from readers. That’s not a bad thing. It seems that just about everyone has an opinion about Social Security – especially when it comes to the decision on when to take it. Many financial advisers recommend that people wait until 70, very few do. In fact, most people don’t even wait until full retirement age, and end up taking it as soon as they are eligible – at 62. Well, a new survey says that, given the chance, a quarter of Social Security recipients would take it later than they did. But that also means that most would not change their decision – for a variety of reasons.”

In the article—headlined A quarter of recent retirees would delay Social Security if they had a do-over—Brooks reports on the “third annual  Nationwide Retirement Institute survey of nearly 1,000 people 50 or older, approaching retirement or retired, [which] found that 23 percent would change when they started drawing Social Security to a later age. And 24 percent of recent retirees said their benefits were less than expected.” Brooks’ excellent piece continues:

“Of those who said they would not change when they started receiving benefits, 39 percent said they were forced to start drawing benefits by a life event.

“Thirty-seven percent of current retirees said health problems keep them from living the retirement they expected. And 80 percent of recent retirees say those health problems came earlier than expected. In fact, health care expenses keep one in four current retirees from living the retirement they expected.

“Other highlights:

  • People are waiting longer to take their benefits. In 2016 the average age that men began receiving Social Security is lower than it was in 2014 (60.5 vs. 62.3).
  • Those who have yet to collect expect to start at age 66 on average, compared to age 62 for recent retirees.
  • Of future retirees who plan to draw Social Security, only 29 percent plan to draw these benefits early.
  • The majority of retirees would not change the age they started drawing Social Security. Seventy-seven percent of people who had been retired for 10 or more years say they would not change the age, and 69 percent of recent retirees say they would make the same decision.

“Of the people who would not change their decision on when they took benefits, the reasons varied.

  • They retired earlier than planned (24 percent of recent retirees, 27 percent of people retired for 10+years)
  • They needed the money (19 percent of recent retirees, 27 percent of 10+)
  • Forced to by health problems (19 percent recent, 20 percent 10+)
  • They didn’t think they would live long enough to optimize benefits (12 percent recent, 16 percent 10+)