A Lack of Awareness of Social Security Claiming Strategies

What do you know about the different Social Security claiming strategies that could significantly impact your income during retirement? Most Americans have basic or incorrect knowledge.

Americans approaching retirement revealed that while they have a basic understanding about the benefits they can receive from Social Security, many aren’t aware there are different claiming strategies, according to an AARP study.

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espondents admitted that their knowledge was lacking. Only 8% described themselves as being “very knowledgeable," while more than half (54%) said they were either “a little knowledgeable” or “not at all knowledgeable.” All of the respondents in the survey were between the ages of 52 and 70.

And of those who admitted to being the least knowledgeable about Social Security, more than half (57%) expect it to be a major source of retirement income.

“When and how to claim Social Security retirement benefits can be a complex decision, and is different for everyone,” said Jean Setzfand, AARP vice president for financial security. “This survey shows us that people who are approaching retirement may be facing this decision without enough information to make the right choices for themselves and their families.”

For instance, while the majority knew that they could receive higher monthly benefits by waiting to claim several years after age 62, respondents didn’t realize just how large of a difference waiting can make.

Less than a third of respondents knew that waiting until at least age 70 results in the highest possible monthly retirement benefit. In fact 19% thought they could receive the maximum monthly benefits before they even reached their full retirement ages. Overall 57% expect to start collecting Social Security benefits before they reach their full retirement age.

Another area where the respondents weren’t very aware is in regards to spousal benefits. Those who had been or are married were split on whether a spouse who had never worked could receive spousal benefits. They proved to be more knowledgeable (95%) about whether or not a widow/widower who never worked could collect benefits earned by the deceased spouse.

According to the results, those who were less knowledgeable were women, individuals with little or no formal education beyond high school, individuals with relatively low household income, individuals with little savings, Hispanics and African Americans.

“People are worried about retirement,” Setzfand said. “Many know they haven’t saved enough, and they’re counting on Social Security. By getting more information about claiming strategies that might result in a bigger base of monthly retirement income from Social Security, they can achieve some financial peace of mind.”