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Sticky Ages: Why Is Age 65 Still a Retirement Peak?


  • Norma B. Coe
  • Mashfiqur Khan
  • Matthew S. Rutledge


When Social Security’s Full Retirement Age (FRA) increased to age 66 for recent retirees, the peak retirement age increased with it. However, a large share of people continue to claim their Social Security benefits at age 65. This paper explores two potential explanations for the “stickiness” of age 65 as a claiming age: Medicare eligibility and workers’ lack of knowledge about their future Social Security benefits. First, we analyze the impact of Medicare eligibility by comparing two groups – one has an FRA of exactly 65; the other, between age 65 and 2 months and age 66. We find that the group with later FRAs who do not have access to retiree health benefits through their employer are more likely to claim Social Security at age 65. We interpret this finding as evidence that Medicare eligibility persuades more people to retire, because they can begin receiving federal health coverage. Individuals without access to retiree health insurance at work are 7.5 percentage points more likely to retire soon after their 65th birthdays and are 5.8 percentage points less likely to delay retirement until the FRA than those with that insurance. This result fits into extensive research showing that access to health insurance is an important component of the retirement decision. On the question of whether misinformation about Social Security benefits may drive individuals to claim at age 65, we find that some individuals are unable to accurately forecast their retirement benefits. However, our analysis suggests that there is no relationship between this confusion and the age 65 peak for claiming Social Security.

Suggested Citation

  • Norma B. Coe & Mashfiqur Khan & Matthew S. Rutledge, 2013. "Sticky Ages: Why Is Age 65 Still a Retirement Peak?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2013-2, Center for Retirement Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:crr:crrwps:wp2013-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    6. John L. Czajka & James Mabli & Scott Cody, "undated". "Sample Loss and Survey Bias in Estimates of Social Security Beneficiaries: A Tale of Two Surveys," Mathematica Policy Research Reports 764acc7a0a0b462c9906514d5, Mathematica Policy Research.
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    12. Gruber, Jonathan & Orszag, Peter, 2003. "Does the Social Security Earnings Test Affect Labor Supply and Benefits Receipt?," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association, vol. 56(4), pages 755-773, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Gustman, Alan L. & Steinmeier, Thomas L., 2015. "Effects of social security policies on benefit claiming, retirement and saving," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 129(C), pages 51-62.
    2. Norma Coe & Gopi Shah Goda, 2014. "How Much Does Access to Health Insurance Influence the Timing of Retirement?," Discussion Papers 14-007, Stanford Institute for Economic Policy Research.
    3. Fitzpatrick, Maria D., 2014. "Retiree health insurance for public school employees: Does it affect retirement?," Journal of Health Economics, Elsevier, vol. 38(C), pages 88-98.
    4. Mark Duggan & Gopi Shah Goda & Emilie Jackson, 2017. "The Effects of the Affordable Care Act on Health Insurance Coverage and Labor Market Outcomes," NBER Working Papers 23607, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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