Believe it or not, there are some good reasons to file for early Social Security benefits. But those only apply in some circumstances — and more often than not, people’s reasons to file early can be downright stupid.
That sounds harsh, but this about it: we’re talking about maxing out your available retirement income so you can make the most of this stage of your life. You don’t want to make a mistake here, especially a silly one you could have easily avoided.
Still, even when I give people the information they need to know about filing appropriately for their specific situation, some people just don’t get it.
Take my recent video on “The Best Age to File for Social Security” as an example.
In the video, I laid out a few decision points that someone should work through when deciding if they should file for early Social Security or if they should delay until later. As of today, it’s been viewed over 400,000 times and received several hundred comments.
And I tend to read all those comments (and yes, you need some thick skin to make it through YouTube comments!). Even though some people are less than polite, I really love these comments because it tells me what my viewers and readers are thinking.
Based on some of the comments on that Best Age to File video, there are some deep-rooted ways of thinking about filing early for Social Security that are just not right.
I’m certainly not implying that the people who made those comments are stupid or ignorant. But I am saying that they may be making some decisions without having all the facts — which leads to some less-than-smart reasons for taking certain actions.
Here are 3 of the most common (and yes, most stupid) reasons why people tend to file for early Social Security.
Stupid Reason #1: There’s a Government Conspiracy to Get You to Wait
Yes, some people believe that filing early is some sort of conspiracy.
After viewing my video, someone suggested that I probably work for Social Security and I want people to hold off from filing — so they die before they can claim their benefits.
Yikes. But it actually gets better:
This commenter goes on to say, “[Social Security is] broke[n] and the Fed [is] taking money. Do what you want, but I’m taking mine at 62.”
Unfortunately, the “it’s a conspiracy” reasoning attracts quite a following.
Another person leaves a similar comment, saying, “They hope you die before they can write the check.” Yet another commenter says, “Haha, are you for real? Or a government SSN employee or cheesy paid actor trying to feed us horse crap? Come on, Goober. Not rocket science. There are many reasons to start taking SSN at 62.”
You get the gist. The thought is that the government wants you to wait to file for benefits so they won’t have to pay out as much.
For anyone who thinks advice suggesting to file at any other age besides the earliest possible age at which to file is a government conspiracy, let’s go back and do a quick history lesson.
In 1935, the Social Security Act was signed into law. Then in 1940, Ida May Fuller received the first of the monthly checks that went out. It wasn’t until 1956 that filing early before full retirement age was even allowed (and even then only women could file at age 62). In 1961, the law was amended yet again to allow men to file early.
If you look at the explanation of the law, it says, “The fact is that the problem of the older worker who cannot get a job continues to exist in good times as well as bad, and the Social Security program should be flexible enough to take account of this problem.”
Someone that says, “waiting to file until you reach full retirement age is a government trick they use to try to save money and avoid paying out benefits,” is someone who is badly misinformed and ignorant of the history and purpose of the program.
Stupid Reason #2: You May Die Early
Stupid reason number two: “You may die early. Better take what you can get when you can get it.”
Many others who watched the video and left comments seemed to buy into this reasoning, which is pretty sad. As you can see, their vision for the future is pretty bleak.
“At age 70, you’re pretty much dead. Most of the people at age 70 have just a few months left to live. Therefore, it would be smarter to retire earlier and enjoy the few years left,” says one.
The commenter goes on to add, “You don’t have any idea how many people do not ever reach retirement age. Almost all of our government plans for seniors are systems of incremental abandonment.”
This guy seems to think it’s a crapshoot either way, saying, “If you die broke, you break even so get it while you can.”
But here’s the thing: if you already had an illness, it might make sense to file for early Social Security. That means dying early is less of a doom-and-gloom outlook and more of a realistic view of your situation.
But acting on a hunch that you might die early? That’s a bunch of nonsense. If we look at the long-term trend and life expectancies, we’ll see that the average life expectancy has increased by 25 years over the last century..
Do you think that’s not going to continue? And even if you do die early, have you stopped to consider how those increased benefits that you would get from filing later could benefit the spouse you leave behind?
Let’s look at the actual numbers on life expectancies. This is directly from the Social Security Administration. If you’re 65 years old today, you can expect to live to about 84.3 if you’re a man and 86.6 if you’re a woman.
With these statistics in mind, it’s imperative that individuals plan their Social Security filing strategy with the mindset of ““I may live a long time” instead of “I need to hurry up and file in case I die.”
Stupid Reason #3: Social Security Is Going Broke
On every Social Security statement, there’s a section that contains information on your estimated benefits. If you look underneath the information about Medicare, you’ll see this:
“Your estimated benefits are based on current law. Congress has made changes to the law in the past and can do so at any time.The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 77% of scheduled benefits.”
There’s no question that the Social Security Administration faces challenges ahead. But opting to file for early Social Security because you’re paranoid the system may not be there in a few years?
That argument just simply does not hold water, and I can show you why.
Let’s say that your benefit at 66 would be $2,000. At 62, your benefit is $1,500. Now, let’s further assume that there are no changes made to the Social Security law to make up for the upcoming shortfall.
In fact, let’s say we in 2034, benefits across the board are cut 77%.
Here’s the question that I have for you: Would you rather have 77% of $2,000 or 77% of $1,500? I think we know the answer to that, so not filing because you might have a benefit cut in the future… well, I’m sorry. That reasoning just doesn’t work.
There are a lot of great reasons to file early. I lay five of these out in my article 5 SMART Reasons to File for Social Security at 62.
I think most people that file early do it for the wrong reasons. I would encourage you to get informed. This is your retirement. Take charge and make great decisions about this stuff. You generally only get one shot.
I’ve listed a few other videos below that tie in to this subject, and I’d encourage you to watch these with an open mind.
Also, I’d like to hear your comments here (or on the videos themselves). What are your thoughts on filing early vs. filing later? At the bottom you’ll see a section for your comments. I’d love to hear from you!