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A quarter of recent retirees would delay Social Security if they had a do-over

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I seldom write about Social Security without an huge response from readers.

That’s not a bad thing. It seems that just about everyone has an opinion about Social Security – especially when it comes to the decision on when to take it.

Many financial advisers recommend that people wait until 70, very few do. In fact, most people don’t even wait until full retirement age, and end up taking it as soon as they are eligible – at 62.

Well, a new survey says that, given the chance, a quarter of Social Security recipients would take it later than they did. But that also means that most would not change their decision – for a variety of reasons.

The third annual  Nationwide Retirement Institute survey of nearly 1,000 people 50 or older, approaching retirement or retired, found that 23 percent would change when they started drawing Social Security to a later age. And 24 percent of recent retirees said their benefits were less than expected.

Of those who said they would not change when they started receiving benefits, 39 percent said they were forced to start drawing benefits by a life event.

Thirty-seven percent of current retirees said health problems keep them from living the retirement they expected. And 80 percent of recent retirees say those health problems came earlier than expected. In fact, health care expenses keep one in four current retirees from living the retirement they expected.

Other highlights:

  • People are waiting longer to take their benefits. In 2016 the average age that men began receiving Social Security is lower than it was in 2014 (60.5 vs. 62.3).
  • Those who have yet to collect expect to start at age 66 on average, compared to age 62 for recent retirees.
  • Of future retirees who plan to draw Social Security, only 29 percent plan to draw these benefits early.
  • The majority of retirees would not change the age they started drawing Social Security. Seventy-seven percent of people who had been retired for 10 or more years say they would not change the age, and 69 percent of recent retirees say they would make the same decision.

Of the people who would not change their decision on when they took benefits, the reasons varied.

  • They retired earlier than planned (24 percent of recent retirees, 27 percent of people retired for 10+years)
  • They needed the money (19 percent of recent retirees, 27 percent of 10+)
  • Forced to by health problems (19 percent recent, 20 percent 10+)
  • They didn’t think they would live long enough to optimize benefits (12 percent recent, 16 percent 10+)

Read more

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President Obama just changed the national debate on Social Security

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Social Security trust fund will be empty in less than 20 years

Question of the week

Would you change the age you started taking Social Security benefits if you could?  Send comments to rodney.brooks@washpost.com. Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Social Security.”

Last Week’s question

Are you saving enough for a comfortable retirement. If you are already retired, are you confident that you saved enough to last?

Alan K. Homer of Portland, Ore., wrote:

Yes, I’m saving enough for retirement.  Still working for at least another 6 years.

I’m 56 years old. It has taken a lot of discipline and long-term perspective.

Each year when raises were given, I took a percentage of the raise and increased my 401(k) contribution.

This allowed me to increase the contributions over time, without feeling the hit to my paycheck.

I also took advantage of (catch-up) contributions over 50 ($6k).

I run multiple projections on how my increased contributions help to increase the forecasted balance to hit the retirement target balance.

Reviewing these projections helped me to stay disciplined in my contributions.

Karen Hansen of Minneapolis:

Women are also more likely to put their own futures at risk in order to help their children. During the recession I had my two kids going off to college. In an effort to stick with what I always wanted to do for my kids, I withdrew retirement funds to help them with college and also to pay my bills. Not a good plan, but I hope to catch up somehow in the next 10 years.

My most recent retirement column:

Employers can help women close the retirement gap

Having emergency savings is even more important in retirement

Michelle Singletary’s latest columns:

Brexit and your American dollars

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Write Brooks at The Washington Post, 1301 K St. NW, Washington, D.C., 20071, or rodney.brooks@washpost.com. On Twitter @Perfiguy. Personal responses may not be possible, and comments or questions may be used in a future column, with the writer’s name, unless otherwise requested. To read more, go to washingtonpost.com/business

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