retirement planning services since 1987


Trillions Left on the Social Security Table

recent study shows almost all Americans are leaving money on the table when it comes to Social Security.

How much? And why?

Beneficiaries lost a total of $3.4 trillion in potential income, or $111,000 per household, because they claimed Social Security benefits at the “wrong time” financially.

In other words, people took benefits too soon. If they’d waited longer, their checks would’ve been bigger. And that can be a big deal – and a lot of money – as we live longer lives.

Some key findings:

  • Only 4 percent of people claim correctly
  • Age 62-64 is optimal for 8 percent of people, yet 79 percent claim then
  • Age 70 is optimal for 71 percent of people, but only 4 percent claim then
  • At the highest wealth levels, 99 percent make suboptimal claim decisions         

The study considered households’ outside resources, spending, health, and longevity to determine how much wealth and income they’d have if they claimed Social Security at various ages. This chart says it all:

People are doing the exact opposite of what’s optimal.

People don’t want to spend their nest eggs on living expenses and see account values drop. So, they claim Social Security to pad their retirement income.

But even though claiming later in life causes people to draw down personal accounts in their sixties, the study found the wealth drop is more than compensated for by their late seventies because of higher Social Security income.

The study, while thorough, didn’t consider the effects of working longer. Earning income for longer reduces or may entirely offset any wealth drop while waiting on Social Security income.

Still, only 4 percent doing it right clearly shows how people are getting bad advice (or none at all). Get help – it’s worth it!

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