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An "Elastic" Earliest Eligibility Age for Social Security

  • Natalia Zhivan
  • Steven A. Sass
  • Margarita Sapozhnikov
  • Kelly Haverstick

In the early 1980s, Congress responded to the Social Security program’s long-term financing shortfall, in part, by raising the Full Retirement Age (FRA) from 65 to 67. When fully phased in, for those who turn 62 in 2022, workers will have to wait an additional two years to get the same monthly benefit. If they do not postpone claiming, the increase in the FRA will cut their benefits by about 13 percent. Congress did not change the earliest age at which workers can claim. This Earliest Eligibility Age (EEA) remains 62. When the increase in the FRA is fully phased in, workers who claim at 62 will get 70 percent, rather than 80 percent, of their FRA benefit. This has raised concerns that benefits claimed at the EEA will be too low, especially as retirees age and other sources of income decline. One response would be to raise the EEA from 62 to 64, in line with the two-year rise in the FRA. There are, however, two important objections to an increase in the EEA. The primary concern is that it would create hardship for those unable to work or find employment and who lack the resources to support themselves without working until age 64. A second objection is that raising the EEA is unfair to disadvantaged groups with low life expectancy. This brief addresses these concerns by considering an “Elastic” EEA, which gives different workers different earliest eligibility ages.

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Paper provided by Center for Retirement Research in its series Issues in Brief with number ib2008-8-2.

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Length: 10 pages
Date of creation: Feb 2008
Date of revision: Feb 2008
Handle: RePEc:crr:issbrf:ib2008-8-2
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  1. Barbara A. Butrica & Karen E. Smith & C. Eugene Steuerle, 2006. "Working for a Good Retirement," Economics Working Paper Archive wp_463, Levy Economics Institute.
  2. Kelly Haverstick & Margarita Sapozhnikov & Robert K. Triest & Natalia Zhivan, 2008. "A new approach to raising Social Security’s earliest eligibility age," Public Policy Discussion Paper 08-4, Federal Reserve Bank of Boston.
  3. Shelly Lundberg & Jennifer Ward-Batts, 2000. "Saving for Retirement: Household Bargaining and Household Net Worth," Working Papers 0026, University of Washington, Department of Economics.
  4. David H. Autor & Mark G. Duggan, 2006. "The Growth in the Social Security Disability Rolls: A Fiscal Crisis Unfolding," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 20(3), pages 71-96, Summer.
  5. Steven A. Sass & Wei Sun & Anthony Webb, 2007. "Why Do Married Men Claim Social Security Benefits So Early? Ignorance or Caddishness?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2007-17, Center for Retirement Research, revised Oct 2007.
  6. Alicia H. Munnell & Steven Sass & Mauricio Soto & Natalia Zhivan, 2006. "Has the Displacement of Older Workers Increased?," Working Papers, Center for Retirement Research at Boston College wp2006-17, Center for Retirement Research, revised Sep 2006.
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