The Decision to Delay Social Security Benefits: Theory and Evidence
John B. Shoven
Stanford University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)
Sita N. Slavov
American Enterprise Institute; Occidental College - Department of Economics
NBER Working Paper No. w17866
Social Security benefits may be commenced at any time between age 62 and age 70. As individuals who claim later can, on average, expect to receive benefits for a shorter period, an actuarial adjustment is made to the monthly benefit amount to reflect the age at which benefits are claimed. We investigate the actuarial fairness of this adjustment. Our simulations suggest that delaying is actuarially advantageous for a large subset of people, particularly for real interest rates of 3.5 percent or below. The gains from delaying are greater at lower interest rates, for married couples relative to singles, for single women relative to single men, and for two-earner couples relative to one-earner couples. In a two-earner couple, the gains from deferring the primary earner’s benefit are greater than the gains from deferring the secondary earner’s benefit. We then use panel data from the Health and Retirement Study to investigate whether individuals’ actual claiming behavior appears to be influenced by the degree of actuarial advantage to delaying. We find no evidence of a consistent relationship between claiming behavior and factors that influence the actuarial advantage of delay, including gender and marital status, interest rates, subjective discount rates, or subjective assessments of life expectancy.
Institutional subscribers to the NBER working paper series, and residents of developing countries may download this paper without additional charge at www.nber.org.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 50working papers series
Date posted: February 24, 2012
© 2014 Social Science Electronic Publishing, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
This page was processed by apollo2 in 0.265 seconds