"It probably could do more," said Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate at the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, which oversees certified planners. The agency does provide various benefit calculators online, she said, but unless you are single and your financial history is simple, "the claiming strategy is not really straightforward."
Considering the number of people who claim benefits early, Blayney may be onto something. In 2014, about 36 percent of men and 41 percent of women who turned 62 claimed Social Security at that age. And while that early claiming rate is well below what it was 30 years ago, many Social Security experts say it is still too high.
Why? Well, waiting to claim at age 70 gives you a monthly benefit that is as much as 76 percent higher. For example, if your benefit at the current full retirement age of 66 is $1,000 but you opt to claim at 62, it would be reduced to $750. If instead you wait until age 70, it would be $1,320, a nice increase. Even so, less than 2 percent of men and 3 percent of women wait that long.
Some people believe they will not live long enough for the higher benefit to offset the years they delay claiming. However, an analysis published in 2015 by JPMorgan Asset Management found that by age 80, even those who waited to claim at age 70 would have received at least as much as if they had claimed earlier. In addition, it said that 62 percent of men and 72 percent of women age 65 will live to age 80 or beyond.
Then there is the possibility that people claiming benefits early may feel they need to get the money right away. Yet a 2015 working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that roughly a third of Social Security beneficiaries who claim before their full retirement age have enough money in IRA accounts to cover at least two years of benefits, and roughly one-fourth have enough to cover four years of benefits. These people may have personal health situations that make them want to claim benefits early, but from a numbers perspective it may not be necessary.