Future Beneficiary Expectations of the Returns to Delayed Social Security Benefit Claiming and Choice Behavior

Published: 2007


We report on our preliminary findings from an innovative module of survey questions in the RAND American Life Panel designed to measure willingness to delay take-up of Social Security benefits. Among respondents who expect to stop working full time prior to turning age 62, over 60 percent report that they expect to start claiming Social Security benefits after they turn 63—that is, they expect to delay claiming. In contrast, among those who expect to stop full-time work sometime from age 62 to age 70, only about one-quarter expect to delay claiming beyond the retirement age. Another main finding arises from reported probabilities of delayed claiming in hypothetical choice scenarios. These probabilities tend to be quite high relative to previous findings on delayed claiming outcomes. This result is particularly striking for those who are presented with information about the so-called “break-even age” for delayed claiming rather than information about the total amount of benefits that must be foregone during the one year delay.

Key Findings

    • Among workers who expect to stop working full-time before age 62, over 60% say they plan to delay claiming Social Security benefits until after they turn 63.
    • Among those who expect to stop full-time work between ages 62 and 70, only about 25% expect to delay claiming beyond their retirement age.
    • When presented with a hypothetical choice to delay claiming or not, proababilities of delayed claiming are high relative to previous findings.