Monday, July 21, 2008

New SSA publication: “When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits”

Social Security has a new two-page pamphlet designed to help individuals decide when to claim retirement benefits. It's a big improvement from previous publications and provides a lot of useful information in a very short space. Read for yourself, give to a friend. (Full disclosure: while at SSA I was involved with designing the pamphlet, though it has changed somewhat since I left the agency. I do think it's great, though.)

The key points, as I see them:

  • Choosing your retirement age isn't about maximizing your lifetime benefits – for the typical person, these are the same regardless of when you claim – but ensuring you'll have enough income later in life.
  • Social Security benefits last as long as you live, and so are valuable insurance against outliving your assets. While the average 65 year old lives to age 83, about 25 percent will survive to at least age 90 and 10 percent will live past age 95.
  • Delaying claiming doesn't just increase your benefit, it also raises benefits for your survivors. A simple "break-even age" approach doesn't factor in survivors benefits.
  • The earnings test isn't a tax; while you may lose some benefits before the full retirement age, you'll receive an increase afterwards to make up for them.

Kudos to the SSA staff who put this together. You can download the pamphlet here.

No comments: