Betting against death


On the other hand, some people advocate drawing Social Security benefits at the first opportunity. Doug Carey, who founded the financial planning software firm WealthTrace, says Social Security doesn’t see itself as an odds maker, but it does require you to bet on your longevity. He offers this chart as proof. It graphs the break-even point for a person who earned the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $70,000 per year for 35 years. If this person waits until 70 to claim Social Security and lives until at least age 90, he’ll accumulate almost $162,000 more in benefits than he would if he had claimed at 62. But there’s a possibility of losing the bet and getting nothing.

Retired law professor and Social Security expert Merton Bernstein says the longevity bet odds are bad, so claim early. “You never know when the bell will ring. I subscribe to the Woody Allen principal: ‘Take the money and run.'”

The above info doesn’t seem to be offered by many financial planners but it is a fact that sometimes taking social security at 70 is a losing proposition.  It seems like social security, like so much else in the world, is a betting game. The break-even point between taking it at 62 verses waiting till 70 is around 80 years old.  If you die before 80 you are actually losing money if you didn’t take it early.  I took it early and here is why.

My dad died at 77 and his dad died at 76 so I expect to croak about the same time.  One thing the graph above doesn’t take into account is if you save the money that you collect early you are actually extending the age out a little further. That is the case for “normal times” but of course these are not normal times. Interest rates are at practically 0% so if you want to make money on saved social security today you must gamble yet again, this time on the stock market!

Long story short, sometimes there is good reason to as the article says “take the money and run”. I am 65 years old now and my health has been significantly deteriorating for the last few years. I expect that by the time I am 70 I will have some pretty significant health issues to battle. I would rather have the money now and spend it while I can appreciate it than gambling that I can joyfully use it later. 🙂