GAO Report Reveals Why People Claim Social Security Benefits Early

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Keener Financial Planning advises on ways to delay taking Social Security for increased benefits.

A recent report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) explains why people choose to claim Social Security benefits as early as possible at age 62, when doing so could reduce their monthly benefit by as much as 30 percent. There are many reasons, according to the report, including work-related and demographic factors. Keener Financial Planning will be hosting a free retirement workshop on Saturday, Oct. 25 to help retirees learn more about Social Security and make informed decisions about their retirement plans.

The GAO study compared workers in a variety of positions and industries and found that blue-collar workers were much more likely to claim early retirement benefits than others. This may be due to the fact that blue-collar work is typically more physically demanding, and therefore progressively harder as people age.

For example, according to the report, 54 percent of men in farming jobs claimed benefits at age 62, compared with just 26 percent of men in managerial positions. Eight out of 10 male farmers claimed their benefits before reaching full retirement age, compared with a little more than half of all managers, both male and female.

A person’s employment status also revealed significant differences in the timing of claims. Full-time workers were approximately 30 percent less likely to claim early. By contrast, and perhaps not surprisingly, those who said they were retired or unemployed were more likely to tap their Social Security early. Interestingly, those with long work histories--at least 35 years of earnings--were 38 percent more likely to claim their benefits early than were those with shorter work spans.

The study revealed several other factors that contributed to early claims of benefits:

  •     Education: Those with less than a college degree were 23 percent more likely to claim early than were those with at least a college education.
  •     Marital status: Widowed individuals were generally more likely to claim their benefits before reaching full retirement age compared with married, divorced/separated or partnered couples.
  •     Life expectancy: Those who thought they had a strong chance of living past age 75 were significantly more likely to delay their benefits when compared to those with lower longevity expectations.

According to the GAO's research, delaying Social Security resulted in a stronger financial position in retirement. Households with an individual who delayed benefits until at least full retirement age received a median income that was 45 percent higher than households who took benefits early. Similarly, total wealth in households where someone delayed benefits until at least full retirement age was 25 percent higher than in households with someone who claimed early.

Jean Keener, CFP® and principal at Keener Financial Planning in Keller, TX, will be sharing strategies for Social Security filing at a free retirement workshop on Saturday Oct. 25 at the Keller Public Library. Keener will review ways retirees can afford to delay benefits, including continued work, taking greater withdrawals from retirement savings while waiting to file for Social Security and coordinating spousal, divorced spouse, and/or survivor Social Security benefits. These strategies can be customized for individuals and couples to maximize their lifetime retirement income.

Keener says, “Many individuals aren’t aware that they can receive benefits on their spouse’s or divorced spouse’s earnings record while waiting to claim benefits on their own. Learning about these options and others can change the filing decision they make at age 62 and significantly improve their retirement lifestyle for the rest of their lives.”

About the company:

Keener Financial Planning is focused on helping individuals effectively plan for retirement, college, career changes, gaining control of personal finances and investing more effectively. Jean and her colleagues are committed to providing the financial knowledge and framework to help people accomplish their dreams and plan for the future. They provide a free, no-obligation meeting to potential clients. For more information or to schedule an appointment, visit

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Jean Keener
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