Why Do Married Men Claim Social Security Benefits so Early? Ignorance or Caddishness?

51 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2008

See all articles by Steven A. Sass

Steven A. Sass

Boston College - Center for Retirement Research

Wei Sun

Renmin University of China - Hanqing Advanced Institute of Economics and Finance and School of Finance

Anthony Webb

Boston College - Center for Retirement Research

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: October 2007

Abstract

Most married men claim Social Security benefits at age 62 or 63, well short of both Social Security's Full Retirement Age and the age that maximizes the household's expected present value of benefits (EPVB). This results in a loss of less than 4 percent in household EPBV. But essentially the entire loss is borne by the survivor benefit, falls nearly 20 percent. As many elderly widows have very low incomes, early claiming by married men is a major social problem.

Regression results found no association between early claiming and caddishness or the ability of husbands to make claiming decisions independently. The one statistically significant finding is the association of college education and later claiming, which cautiously take to indicate greater financial awareness. This suggests that an effective educational campaign might be able to raise the claiming ages of married men and improve widows' retirement income security. But financial education has not been especially effective in changing behavior. Policymakers should thus consider other initiatives to assure a survivor benefit greater than that produced by an age 62 or 63 husbands' claiming age. Such initiatives include raising the Earliest Eligibility Age, requiring spousal consent for claiming prior to the Full Retirement Age, and preserving the survivor benefit at its Full Retirement Age value and allowing the higher-earning spouse to access only a portion of his (or her) Primary Insured Amount prior to the Full Retirement Age.

Suggested Citation

Sass, Steven A. and Sun, Wei and Webb, Anthony, Why Do Married Men Claim Social Security Benefits so Early? Ignorance or Caddishness? (October 2007). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1297440 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1297440

Steven A. Sass (Contact Author)

Boston College - Center for Retirement Research ( email )

140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

Wei Sun

Renmin University of China - Hanqing Advanced Institute of Economics and Finance and School of Finance ( email )

59 Zhongguancun Street
Beijing, Beijing 100872
China

Anthony Webb

Boston College - Center for Retirement Research ( email )

Fulton Hall 550
Chestnut Hill, MA 02467
United States

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