The Financial Feasibility of Delaying Social Security: Evidence from Administrative Tax Data
30 Pages Posted: 14 Sep 2015 Last revised: 15 May 2022
Date Written: September 2015
Despite the large and growing returns to deferring Social Security benefits, most individuals claim Social Security before the full retirement age, currently age 66. In this paper, we use a panel of administrative tax data on likely primary earners to explore some potential hypotheses of why individuals fail to delay claiming Social Security, including liquidity constraints and private information regarding one’s expected future lifetime. We find that approximately 31-34% of beneficiaries who claim prior to the full retirement age have assets in Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) that would fund at least 2 additional years of Social Security benefits, and 24-26% could fund at least 4 years of Social Security deferral with IRA assets alone. Our analysis suggests that these percentages would be considerably higher if other assets were taken into account. We find evidence that those who claim prior to the full retirement age have higher subjective and actual mortality rates than those who claim later, suggesting that private information about expected future lifetimes may influence claiming behavior.
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