Wait a minute, you might be thinking: Aren’t my benefits permanently lower if I start collecting Social Security before full retirement age? And don’t I get the maximum level of benefit if I wait until I’m 70 to collect?
Workers who are financially savvy and in good health know this, and many opt to wait. But about two-thirds take their benefits early; 1 to 2 percent wait until age 70, even though the retirement benefit level is a shocking 76 percent higher (after adjusting for inflation) than at 62.
There are many reasons for this. Some workers are laid off, or encouraged to retire via incentive programs from their employers. Others find their productivity is lagging. Many face age discrimination.
Moreover our fear of death leads us to take benefits early so we don’t lose them. But that logic, while understandable, is mistaken. The real danger is not kicking ourselves in the grave. It’s living to 100 without a decent income. American women who have made it to age 60 will live, on average, until 86; men, on average, until 83. But we can’t count on dying on time.