In 2011, the number of Americans taking early Social Security benefits dropped to a 35-year low, according to a new report from the Urban Institute. For the second consecutive year, those taking benefits fell, to 27 percent of the number of eligible older adults. That's down from 31 percent in 2009, reestablishing a 12-year downward trend interrupted only by the recent recession.
Some older workers who lost jobs in the faltering economy opted to retire rather than search for another employer. They may have started collecting Social Security sooner than they had planned because of the forced nature of their retirement. That contributed to a spike in the percentage taking early benefits.
The trend back downward is probably a good thing. A GAO study last year confirmed what retirement experts at AARP have been saying for years: It pays to delay taking Social Security benefits. You're allowed to start collecting Social Security checks at age 62, though the monthly payment will be reduced. Full benefits accrue at age 66. But for each year you put off collecting between 62 and 70, you'll increase your monthly benefit by 5 to 8 percent.
Another new retirement security study (this one from research firm Brightwork Partners) found that American households least financially prepared for retirement saved even less this year, while those who had nice nest eggs saved even more aggressively. "It's a very striking, polarizing impact on the distribution" of retirement savings, said Merl Baker, principal of Brightwork Partners.
Thursday Quick Hits:
- More than half of Americans are live beyond their monthly means-and they're okay with that.
- Former first lady Nancy Reagan is recovering from a fall at home six weeks ago in which she fractured several ribs, the Reagan Presidential Library announced this week. Every 18 seconds, an older adult winds up in the hospital due to a fall; for more on how to prevent falls and improve balance, see here.
- A report on the future of long-term care insurance encourages major employers to begin offering this insurance as an employee benefit.
- Former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson is making headlines for an angry letter directed at the California Alliance for Retired Americans. "What a wretched group of seniors you must be," wrote Simpson, in response to a flyer from the group touting Social Security's solvency. He went on to call the group navel-gazing "greedy geezers" who push nefarious crap, bulls**t, blather and drivel (yes, in that exact language.)
- And hotter temperatures and an aging population could lead to a major spike in heat-related deaths in big cities by century's end, an environmental group warns.
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