Social Security is an important retirement income source. Unfortunately, many Americans may end up with less money from this benefits program than they anticipated. If you're one of them, this can lead to serious financial problems in your later years.
Around half of all future retirees face this risk, based on new data from the Allspring Global Investments Survey. Here's why.
A look at current seniors shows why future retirees are at risk
Unfortunately, a survey of current retirees revealed one big reason far too many people could end up with lower-than-expected Social Security benefits. Around half of the survey respondents who've already left the workforce indicated they'd been forced to do so earlier than anticipated as a result of two factors beyond their control: Health issues, and decisions made by their employer. Sadly, tomorrow's seniors could end up facing the same fate.
See, it's not uncommon for health problems to develop relatively early on and make continuing to earn a living impossible. Older adults may also face difficulty finding a new job if their employer decides to let them go. And seniors who cannot work because of physical issues or a lack of opportunities are often forced to claim Social Security benefits sooner than they expected -- especially considering leaving work ahead of schedule means they may not have amassed a large enough nest egg, since they're missing out on prime savings years when catch-up contributions would otherwise have been available.
If you have too little savings and can't work, turning to the guaranteed income Social Security provides may be the only available option. But claiming ASAP can lead to early filing penalties that reduce benefits by as much as 30% as well as giving up the chance to earn delayed retirement credits that increase your standard benefit by as much as 8% annually.
For those who were counting on raising Social Security benefits by starting them at a later age, forced early retirement could thus be a double whammy that results in both smaller retirement checks and a savings account that produces less money than anticipated.
How to avoid this fate
To avoid a serious income shortfall if you end up among the 50% of retirees forced to quit work sooner than planned, there are a few steps you may want to take. Consider:
- Setting your target retirement age at 62 for purposes of establishing savings goals. If you plan to leave work at a young age, you'll be less likely to be forced into retiring ahead of schedule. You can make sure your savings is enough to support you, even if health issues or a lack of employment opportunities necessitate a relatively early departure from your job. This could enable you to live off your savings alone and put off a Social Security claim to maximize your monthly benefit -- or could help ensure you can pick up the slack with investment income if you do start benefits early.
- Assuming you'll claim Social Security at 62. If you anticipate getting retirement benefits as soon as they become available, you won't face a surprise cut that leaves you with substantially less income than anticipated.
If you do end up being able to work for as long as you ideally hope, you'll just end up better off with a bigger savings account and more retirement benefits. That's a good position to be in.