The experts on Social Security are missing something.
While they continuously preach about the virtues of waiting to apply for benefits, the vast majority of Americans do just the opposite.
According to a recent study by the Government Accountability Office, 62 remains the "most prevalent age to claim Social Security benefits."
With this in mind, I wanted to offer current and prospective retirees a counterpoint to the conventional wisdom. What follows, in turn, are three good reasons to apply for benefits as soon as possible.
1. You want to
Let's get one thing straight from the get-go. Given that you're the one who put in the time and energy to qualify for Social Security in the first place, it almost necessarily follows that you're more than capable of determining the best time to claim them.
Keep in mind that most retirement experts have little on-the-ground experience. Many have white-collar jobs that consist of researching and writing in a calm and collected environment.
They're shielded, in other words, from the physical and psychological strains associated with more traditional blue-collar employment.
In the same study cited above, for instance, the authors found that 61% of respondents between ages 60 and 62 who held jobs in the farming, construction, and mechanical industries, among others, were in positions that demanded and/or involved "heavy lifting most or all of the time."
Suffice it to say, that type of employment isn't well suited for people in their 60s. Consequently, for those who find themselves in this position, there's little question that the scale tips heavily in favor of retirement as opposed to remaining in a physically demanding workplace.
2. You need the money
Of all the misconceptions among experts on the issue of Social Security, I believe the biggest is that everyone has the luxury of deciding whether to receive them early or late.
Ask most retired people, however, and they'd tell you just the opposite.
Consider this: According to the Social Security Administration, 51% of the workforce has no private pension coverage and 34% has no savings set aside specifically for retirement.
Or, how about this: "among elderly Social Security beneficiaries, 22% of married couples and about 47% of unmarried persons rely on Social Security for 90% or more of their income."
The point is that having the ability to defer benefits is a luxury that many people don't have. Consequently, if you're one of these, then you have absolutely no reason to lament the fact that you elected to claim early.
The inability of so-called experts to appreciate this is their shortcoming, not yours.
3. For the average retiree, it doesn't make any difference when you claim
Last but not least, the third reason to apply for Social Security benefits early is because, at the end of the day, it isn't likely to make a huge difference in your lifetime benefits anyhow.
"The Social Security benefit formula adjusts monthly payments so that someone living to average life expectancy should receive about the same amount of benefits over their lifetime regardless of which age they claim," notes the same study I cited earlier.
It accordingly follows that unless you're likely to far outlive the life expectancy of the average American (or you have a spouse or other dependents), then your cumulative lifetime benefits are likely to equal out at the end of the day regardless of when you take them.
With this in mind, in turn, why not get retirement started sooner rather than later? The worst thing that could happen is that by removing yourself from the stress and exertions of the workforce, you thereby extend your lifespan and thus your benefits.
I could be wrong on this count, but it seems to me that there are better things to worry about.