Social Security is a key element of financial security in retirement, and there's plenty of temptation to take benefits as early as possible. But a recent survey found that many who take benefits early end up regretting their decision in the long run.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, the Motley Fool's director of investment planning, looks at a study from Nationwide, which looked at retirees and how they had made decisions about their Social Security benefits. As Dan notes, 38% of those who took benefits early said they regretted not having waited longer. The survey found that early benefit-takers got on average just $1,200 monthly, compared to $1,500 for those who took benefits at normal retirement age and more than $1,900 for those who waited even longer. Dan points out that health-care costs were an especially large problem for retirees, with almost 70% of benefits going just to cover out-of-pocket costs and with that number expected to rise over time. In addition, even for those with no health problems, many said that they couldn't do what they expected in retirement, and of those, 86% said that money was the key factor. Dan concludes that whichever way you eventually go, you have to think long-term in order to make a decision about Social Security that you won't regret.

Dan Caplinger and The Motley Fool have no position in any of the stocks mentioned. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.