Unusual Social Security Claiming Strategies: Costs and Distributional Effects

TitleUnusual Social Security Claiming Strategies: Costs and Distributional Effects
Publication TypeReport
Year of Publication2009
AuthorsMunnell, AH, Sass, SA, Golub-Sass, A, Karamcheva, NS
Document NumberWP#2009-17
InstitutionCenter for Retirement Research at Boston College
KeywordsSocial Security

When to claim Social Security is one of the most important decisions Americans
face when approaching retirement. Recently, several unconventional claiming strategies
have come to light – “Free Loan,” “Claim and Suspend,” and “Claim Now, Claim More
Later” – that have the potential to pay higher lifetime benefits to some individuals,
increasing system costs. In the “Free Loan” strategy, an individual can claim benefits at
a given age and later repay them and file again, obtaining an increased benefit from the
delayed filing. This strategy is equivalent to a “no interest” loan from Social Security
and could potentially cost the program as much as $11 billion a year. “Claim and
Suspend” allows an individual to claim benefits and then immediately suspend them,
either to put his own benefits on hold if he reenters the workforce or to allow his spouse
to claim a spousal benefit while he continues to work and earn delayed retirement credits.
The potential cost of allowing couples the option of “Claim and Suspend” is about $0.5
billion dollars a year. In the “Claim Now, Claim More Later” strategy, a married
individual claims a spousal benefit while delaying claiming his own retired worker
benefit in order to build up delayed retirement credits. This option could potentially cost
Social Security $10 billion a year. Of the three strategies, “Claim and Suspend” appears
to have the clearest policy rationale as it provides an incentive for individuals to work

Citation Key10780