Wharton Pension Research Council Working Papers

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Working Paper

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Eligible participants in the U.S. Social Security system have the ability to claim benefits anytime between ages 62 and 70, with the level of benefit being actuarially adjusted based on the date of claiming. This project shows that individual intentions with regard to Social Security claiming age are sensitive to the manner in which the early versus late claiming decision is framed. Using an experimental design that alters the manner in which the implications of Social Security benefits are framed, we find evidence that the use of a “break-even analysis” has the very strong effect of encouraging individuals to claim early. We show that individuals are more likely to report that they will delay claiming when later claiming is framed as a gain and when the information provides an anchoring point at older, rather than younger, ages. We also provide evidence that females, individuals with credit card debt, and individuals with lower expected benefits are more strongly influenced by framing. The finding that expected claiming decisions can be significantly altered by the framing of information suggests that individuals may not be making fully rational optimizing choices when it comes to choosing a claiming date.

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Copyright/Permission Statement

The opinions and conclusions expressed herein are solely those of the authors and do not represent the opinions or policy of SSA, any agency of the Federal Government, or any other institution with which the authors are affiliated. ©2010 Pension Research Council. All rights reserved


The research reported herein was performed pursuant to a grant from the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) funded as part of the Financial Literacy Consortium. The authors also acknowledge support provided by the Pension Research Council and Boettner Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and the RAND Corporation. The authors thank Mary Fu for her expert research assistance, and Matthew Greenwald, Tania Gutsche, Lisa Marinelli, Lisa Schneider, and Bas Weerman for their invaluable comments on the project. We also thank Steve Goss and Steve McKay of SSA for their guidance on our benefit calculator.

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Economics Commons



Date Posted: 07 August 2019