NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH

Social Security Claiming Decisions: Survey Evidence

John B. Shoven, Sita Nataraj Slavov, David A. Wise

NBER Working Paper No. 23729
Issued in August 2017
NBER Program(s):   AG   PE

While research shows that there are large gains in lifetime wealth from delaying claiming Social Security, most people claim at or before full retirement age. We fielded an original, nationally representative survey to gain insight into people’s rationales for their Social Security claiming decisions, their satisfaction with their past claiming decisions, and how they financed any gap between retirement and claiming. Common rationales for claiming Social Security before full retirement age include stopping work, liquidity, poor health, and concerns about future benefit cuts due to policy changes. Claiming upon stopping work and claiming at full retirement age appear to be viewed as social norms. But while Social Security claiming is strongly associated with stopping work, the roughly quarter of the sample who have a gap of two or more years between retirement and claiming used employer-sponsored pensions and other saving to finance the delay. Individuals who claimed at full retirement age are more satisfied with their claiming decisions than individuals who claimed early or delayed. There is little evidence that claiming decisions and rationales for claiming are correlated with financial literacy or knowledge of Social Security rules.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w23729

 
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