Social Security: Sometimes, “You Live and You Learn”

A recent study of retirees conducted by for MassMutual found interesting answers to this fundamental retirement planning question, “If you had to do it over again, would you change your Social Security filing decision?”

Here’s what we learned:

  1. Three out of 10 filed at age 62 or as soon as they could.
  2. Four of 10 people wished they had filed later.
  3. More than 75% of the retirees believed they had the right amount of information to make a good decision about when to take Social Security retirement benefits.
  4. Almost 60% did not get any advice about their filing decision.


In reality, when and how to file for Social Security retirement benefits are significant life decisions. A wise person once offered this observation about decision-making: “If you think the answer is easy, maybe you did not really understand the question.”

What the study, above, suggests is many retirees really did not understand the consequences of their decision.

The filing decision for a single person, age 62, is relatively basic. When selecting a date to claim Social Security retirement benefits, there are just nine ages from which to choose.

However, for a married couple, there are 9 times 9 ages — or 81 age considerations — when making a filing decision.

Furthermore, a married couple must factor in benefit amounts, access to other assets in retirement, and, most importantly, longevity to make a confident decision. When these other factors are added to the mix, the resulting Social Security payout out can vary by up to six figures over a lifetime for a married couple.

You have to wonder: Of the 60% of the retirees who made their Social Security retirement benefit filing decision on their own, how many would or could have made a different decision if they had access to more information or analysis tools?

Most lottery winners seek help from financial advisors about to handle their good fortune. For many, filing for Social Security retirement benefits is like winning the lottery. It may be best to get help so as to make the best decision for both the short- and long-term.

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