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Economic Perspective: Why People Take Social Security At Different Times

NC State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences professor Dr. Mike Walden working in a recording studio.

“Today’s program asks why people take Social Security at different times. Mike, once they become eligible individuals can begin taking Social Security retirement benefits at different ages. However a longer a person waits, the higher the monthly Social Security income will be. How do most people decide?”


“Well I think it’s based on their view of what their needs are, and it’s not that they are ignorant of the fact that if you wait benefits go up. In fact, most people that are surveyed know that very well. They know that on average those Security benefits, if you wait a year, go up about eight percent.”

“Still, most people who are eligible for Social Security, the first time they’re eligible they’re going to take the benefits or they do so within a couple of years. The two biggest reasons cited for them doing that is number one: They’re retired and they need the cash. Even though they know if they wait they’re going to get more cash, but they need the cash now. Secondly, this is very interesting, they worry that in the future Social Security might not be around so they go ahead and take it now.”

“On the other hand the people who wait, and take advantage of the fact that the payment is going to go up every year that they wait, those tend to be people who are continuing to be employed, are in good health and again they’re wanting to take advantage of those higher benefits down the road.”

“So this is very, very interesting that people are making these decisions based on full knowledge, but they’re individual circumstances seem to dictate whether they take Social Security as soon as it’s available to them or they wait.