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Social Security Claiming Decisions: Survey Evidence

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  • John B. Shoven
  • Sita Nataraj Slavov
  • David A. Wise

Abstract

While research shows that there are large gains in lifetime wealth from delaying claiming Social Security, most people claim at or before full retirement age. We fielded an original, nationally representative survey to gain insight into people’s rationales for their Social Security claiming decisions, their satisfaction with their past claiming decisions, and how they financed any gap between retirement and claiming. Common rationales for claiming Social Security before full retirement age include stopping work, liquidity, poor health, and concerns about future benefit cuts due to policy changes. Claiming upon stopping work and claiming at full retirement age appear to be viewed as social norms. But while Social Security claiming is strongly associated with stopping work, the roughly quarter of the sample who have a gap of two or more years between retirement and claiming used employer-sponsored pensions and other saving to finance the delay. Individuals who claimed at full retirement age are more satisfied with their claiming decisions than individuals who claimed early or delayed. There is little evidence that claiming decisions and rationales for claiming are correlated with financial literacy or knowledge of Social Security rules.

Suggested Citation

  • John B. Shoven & Sita Nataraj Slavov & David A. Wise, 2017. "Social Security Claiming Decisions: Survey Evidence," NBER Working Papers 23729, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23729
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Jeffrey B. Liebman & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2015. "Would People Behave Differently If They Better Understood Social Security? Evidence from a Field Experiment," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(1), pages 275-299, February.
    2. Luc Behaghel & David M. Blau, 2012. "Framing Social Security Reform: Behavioral Responses to Changes in the Full Retirement Age," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 41-67, November.
    3. Menahem E. Yaari, 1965. "Uncertain Lifetime, Life Insurance, and the Theory of the Consumer," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 32(2), pages 137-150.
    4. Andrew Beauchamp & Mathis Wagner, 2012. "Dying to Retire: Adverse Selection and Welfare in Social Security," Boston College Working Papers in Economics 818, Boston College Department of Economics, revised 15 Aug 2013.
    5. Michael D. Hurd & James P. Smith & Julie M. Zissimopoulos, 2004. "The effects of subjective survival on retirement and Social Security claiming," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 19(6), pages 761-775.
    6. Shoven, John B. & Slavov, Sita Nataraj, 2014. "Does it pay to delay social security?," Journal of Pension Economics and Finance, Cambridge University Press, vol. 13(02), pages 121-144, April.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D14 - Microeconomics - - Household Behavior - - - Household Saving; Personal Finance
    • H55 - Public Economics - - National Government Expenditures and Related Policies - - - Social Security and Public Pensions
    • J26 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demand and Supply of Labor - - - Retirement; Retirement Policies

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