A couple of years ago, I had a conversation with an older relative about claiming Social Security benefits. Like most people, he began getting Social Security at 62. When I said I hoped to wait until I reached 70, he was incredulous.

Why would anyone delay collecting a retirement benefit for eight years? That would mean forgoing thousands of dollars in income—money I could invest if I didn’t need it to live on. And what if I were to die before I reached 70 and never collect a penny? (That’s almost what happened to another relative, who died a month after turning 62 and received only one check.)


Everyone’s circumstances are different. Some people have excellent reasons to take Social Security as soon as they can. For example, because of health problems, they truly don’t expect to be around for more than a few years. But in an article in the April issue of Benefits Magazine, Bruce D. Schobel, CEBS, asserts that the common decision to begin collecting at 62 “often appears to be thoughtless.”

In “When to Claim and How to Optimize Social Security Benefits,” Schobel points out that Social Security is the only inflation-adjusted source of retirement income for most people. Longevity is increasing. Many more people are expected to reach the age of 85 and beyond, when “having the largest possible Social Security benefit is very desirable, if not essential,” Schobel writes, “because the oldest retirees have the fewest options for getting additional income . . . and their assets may already have been consumed when they were younger.”

[Related: When to Claim and How to Optimize Social Security Benefits, Benefits Magazine]

Schobel, a former president of the Society of Actuaries, goes into some detail about what happens to benefits collected at 62, normal retirement age (NRA), 70 and other ages between 62 and 70. The bottom line is that the age-62 benefit is only 75% for someone whose NRA is 66 and falls to 70% for a younger worker with an NRA of 67. These benefit reductions are permanent.

But someone who is 70 today and begins collecting Social Security will receive a benefit that’s 132% of his or her NRA benefit. That goes down a little—to 124% of the NRA benefit—for a worker with an NRA of 67.

There are other interesting benefits-claiming strategies for spouses, including a simple one called get some now, get more later, that works best when one spouse has much greater earnings than the other and is older.

It’s worth learning as much as you can before making a decision about when to claim Social Security:

Chris Vogel, CEBS

Senior Editor—Publications at the International Foundation Favorite Foundation service/product: Benefits Magazine, of course—especially “What’s Working” articles

Benefits related topics she loves to cover: Behavioral science behind steering employees to best retirement and health care options; innovative health care and wellness plan designs Favorite Foundation conference/event moment: Every minute of the Employee Benefits Symposium Personal Insight: “Leisure time” for Chris is far from inactive. You might find her gardening, cooking up a storm of healthy foods, traveling to historic places, biking with her husband, reading 24/7 or knitting sweaters for her grandson. Whatever activity, she’ll be doing it with an inspiring enthusiasm.


Recommended Posts

Legal & Legislative Reporter: Medical Provider May Not Bring Claim on Behalf of Participants and Beneficiaries

Guest Contributor

Every month, the International Foundation releases the Legal and Legislative Reporter, a compilation of new employee benefits–related case summaries. Below is a summary we thought you’d be interested in. Content provided by Morgan, Lewis & Bockius LLP. The U.S. District Court for the […]

Five Steps to Nurture Belonging in the Workplace

Guest Contributor

Benefits Magazine Extras articles provide you with bonus content on a mix of benefits topics as well as deep dives and analyses on the latest benefit trends and compliance issues. Visit ifebp.org/benefitsmagazine to see the latest Benefits Magazine Extras as well as the bimonthly print […]

Navigating Uncertainty

Christine Vazquez, CEBS

In today’s business environment, change is constant. Earning a Certified Employee Benefit Specialist® (CEBS®) designation can help benefits professionals improve their ability to manage organizational change. The self-study CEBS courses provide critical knowledge and skills to scan the environment and strategically tailor benefit […]

DOL Guidance on Mental Health Parity: Proposed Rules for NQTL Comparative Analyses

Jenny Gartman, CEBS

Many health plan sponsors continue to struggle to comply with the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act (MHPAEA), particularly the requirement to conduct a comparative analysis of nonquantitative treatment limitations (NQTLs) that has been effective under the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act […]