The earliest age you can file for Social Security retirement benefits is 62. It's also the most popular age to start Social Security retirement benefits.
But while it's a popular age, many people who first claim benefits when they're so young up wishing they hadn't. In fact, MassMutual's 2019 Social Security Pulse Check revealed that 38% of people who claimed their benefits at 62 wish they'd waited until later.
Why do so many people regret their early benefits claim? Read on to find out.
Why filing for Social Security benefits early may be something you regret
Under the law, every retiree has a full retirement age (FRA), which is based on the retiree's birth year. For those born in 1960 or later, FRA is 67. For those born before 1960, it's between 65 and 66.
If you start getting Social Security checks prior to FRA, you'll face a reduction in benefits for each month you claimed early. For someone with an FRA of 67 who retires at 62, these monthly reductions add up to a 30% smaller monthly check compared to the standard benefit that would've been available at FRA.
According to the Mass Mutual research, a married couple who files at 62 and who lives into their 90s could lose out on more than $500,000 in benefits as a result of this early filing.
And filing early not only reduces your own check but could also cut survivor's benefits available to your spouse if you were the higher earner and you pass away first.
Should you file for Social Security benefits at 62?
While 38% of people regret filing for benefits at 62, that means most retirees who claimed Social Security early don't regret it.
Claiming at 62 could enable early retirement when it might not otherwise be possible. If you're eager to leave work and Social Security enables that, you may decide you're willing to accept the trade-off of lower monthly checks.
Some people may also prefer to claim early because they don't think they'll live long enough for higher benefits received later to make up for missed benefits. Since the Social Security system is designed to try to ensure beneficiaries receive the same amount of lifetime benefits no matter what age they retire, you have to outlive your projected lifespan to end up better off by delaying a benefits claim.
Others prefer to get their benefits ASAP because Social Security buying power is eroding as benefits aren't keeping up with inflation.
While these are all valid reasons for claiming benefits at the earliest possible age, the key is to make sure you understand the impact of your decision. If you decide the trade-off of getting smaller benefits sooner is worthwhile, you hopefully will make a choice that you're happy with over the long-term.
Don't regret your Social Security filing decision
Once you've filed for your Social Security benefits, it's really hard to undo your claim if you regret it later. You don't want to find yourself wishing you'd made a different choice, so take the time to research how your age at the time of filing affects your monthly checks. Doing this will help you ensure you don't have regrets about when your benefits begin.