With life expectancy in the U.S. now at a record high (78.8 years for babies born in 2012), our quality of life continues to improve with modern-day advancements in medicine and technology.
Unfortunately, Social Security benefits are becoming a far more important part of retirement planning — longer lives are resulting in retirees depleting their nest eggs more quickly than anticipated.
In fact, a recent Gallup survey found that 36% of adults who haven’t yet retired are counting on Social Security benefits to be a “major source” of retirement income. That’s the most crippling reliance on Social Security benefits in 15 years.
Tragically, just as Social Security income becomes more desperately needed, an incredible 73% of Americans aren’t getting their full benefits. Why?
They’re retiring early.
Many of these Americans may simply find themselves physically unable to perform their jobs, while others may find it difficult to get or keep jobs in an ageist society; still more are simply ready to ease up on the pedal and enjoy their glory years after a lifetime of hard work.
In any case, people who find themselves mulling an early retirement in the next few years should be aware of the extraordinary costs of doing so — and the benefits of working past their normal retirement age.
Retiring at 62 vs. 70: A 76% Difference
The earliest age you can take social security benefits is 62. The catch? You won’t get the full benefits check you could expect if you hung up your jersey at your “normal retirement age.” In fact, you won’t get close to your full benefits. For those born between 1943 and 1954, you’ll get just 75% of your full social security benefits.
If at all possible, don’t retire when you’re 62. Work just a few more years and you’ll get your full check. And if you work well past your full retirement age? Well, delay taking Social Security benefits until you’re 70 and you can get a monthly check that’s a full 76% fatter than if you retired at 62.
(Note: The numbers in this table are based on average payouts and payout percentages for those born between 1943 and 1954. A fuller table of social security benefits at different retirement ages can be found here.)
That kind of dough isn’t anything to joke about. With the average social security benefits check currently at $1,218.26, there’s roughly a $700 difference per month between retiring at 62 and 70. In other words, if you stick it out, you get 76% more each month than you would’ve at 62.
Of course, in an ideal world, Americans will have other sources of income and sufficient savings in their retirement years. The Social Security Administration reminds readers on its website that 70% to 80% of preretirement income is traditionally needed to finance a comfortable lifestyle as a retiree. Social Security benefits only replace about 40% of preretirement income for the average worker, so there’s a pretty big gulf there.
Try to set yourself up with some supplemental retirement income if you can, but if you find yourself nearing retirement and needing to rely on Social Security in a big way, consider working a few extra years. A guaranteed 76% return in eight years sure isn’t bad.
As of this writing John Divine is not optimistic about what his Social Security check will look like. You can follow him on Twitter at @divinebizkid or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.