During the past several decades, workers eligible for Social Security have been claiming their benefits at later ages. The earliest age a person can claim their own retirement benefit is 62, and for many years that is when the majority of people claimed their benefit. Since the mid 1980s that share has fallen substantially, for both males and females. Researchers from Boston College's Center for Retirement Research find that insured individuals turning age 62 in 2013 are about 20 percentage points less likely to claim Social Security benefits at that age, compared to insured individuals reaching 62 in 1985. The first chart, below, highlights this trend.
Note that claiming Social Security benefits does not mean an individual must stop working.
More and more workers insured by Social Security are claiming at or after the full retirement age (FRA). The chart below compares two birth year cohorts: one attaining age 62 in 1990 when the full retirement age was 65, and the other in 2005, when the full retirement age had increased to 66. In that 15 year span, claiming at or beyond the FRA increased by about 9 percentage points for males and 8 percentage points for females. Starting this year, the FRA will further increase by 2 months annually until it reaches 67 for individuals attaining age 62 in 2022.
In the chart below, use the selector to toggle between male and female retirees.
Claiming Social Security before the full retirement age permanently reduces a person’s monthly benefits, but increases the total number of years of benefit receipt, since benefits are paid until death. Additionally, claiming after the full retirement age permanently increases benefits, but will decrease the total years of benefit receipt.
Retired worker benefits are first calculated as if an individual is retiring at the full retirement age, and then increased or decreased based on the actual date they are claimed. For example, at a full retirement age of 66, a person claiming at the earliest age of eligibility — age 62 — would receive a monthly benefit 25 percent less than would be available at age 66. Those who claim at age 70 — the last age associated with a benefit increase — would receive a benefit 32 percent larger than would be available to them at age 66. When the full retirement age reaches 67, individuals who claim their benefits at age 62 would receive an amount 30 percent less than available at age 67, while those who delay until age 70 would receive a benefit 24 percent larger than available to them at 67. In practice, for a given retirement age, an increase in the full retirement age is equivalent to a benefit reduction.
The chart below shows how benefits increase or decrease for various retirement ages, assuming a full benefit of $1,000 and a full retirement age of 67.
As mentioned above, individuals are waiting longer to claim Social Security when compared to previous decades. They have also been increasing their participation in the labor force at older ages. Labor force participation rates among individuals in their 60s have been steadily on the rise since the early 1990s. Researchers have posited several reasons for these trends, including longer lifespans, better health in older age, incentives from participation in investment based retirement plans, more legal protection from age discrimination, and fewer physically demanding jobs. People who choose to work longer can also get a higher monthly benefit if they wait to collect their Social Security benefits. Other Social Security policy changes, such as the increase in the full retirement age and the elimination of the retirement earnings test above the full retirement age also improve the payoff to working longer and delaying claiming Social Security retirement benefits.
The chart below shows labor force participation rates over time for two age groups: 60 to 64 and 65 to 69. The chart is stratified by sex, and you can use the selector buttons to toggle between male and females.