WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Chris Coons (D-DE), recently introduced legislation to help Americans better plan for retirement and enhance retirement security by ensuring they have the information they need to make more informed decisions regarding when to claim Social Security benefits. This is particularly important today, as Americans are living longer than ever, and rising health care costs often lead to unexpected expenses that can drain savings.
Here’s what people are saying:
BPC Action Executive Director Michele Stockwell: “Hard working Americans deserve simple, straightforward information when planning for retirement, especially when it comes to claiming Social Security. This effort from Sens. Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) does just that by updating claiming age terms to better reflect their corresponding benefits and distributing Social Security statements to workers throughout their career. We know that the age at which one first claims Social Security benefits drastically impacts the total income they receive over time, and the changes in these bills will ensure that retirees are better informed in their long-term planning and decisions.”
Former Senator Kent Conrad (D-ND): “These commonsense reforms will help hard-working Americans make better informed decisions about their Social Security benefits. Of course, we also need to take action to secure the solvency of Social Security.”
AEI Senior Fellow and Former Social Security Administration Principal Deputy Commissioner Andrew Biggs: “It is essential that Americans know what benefits they are entitled to from Social Security and how the age at which they claim benefits will affect their retirement income. This bipartisan legislation moves ahead on both fronts to better inform Americans and enhance retirement income security.”
Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business Dean of Faculty and Research and John S. Dyson Professor in Marketing Suzanne Shu:“The age at which a retiree begins claiming Social Security benefits has huge effects on their financial security, but the decision is complex. Efforts like this to cut through the noise with clearer language and more regular communication can help retirees better understand the emotional and personal tradeoffs in this important life decision and improve retirement outcomes.”
George Mason University Professor of Public Policy and AEI Senior Fellow Sita Slavov: “The current terms used to describe Social Security claiming options are inaccurate and confusing—a problem compounded by a lack of general knowledge about the program and the choices retirees have. These proposed changes are a huge improvement, clarifying the tradeoffs associated with the claiming decision and ensuring all Americans have easy access to information about how Social Security works and how it affects them.”
Former Social Security Administration Principal Deputy Commissioner Jim Lockhart: “From my time as Principal Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration, I am well aware of Social Security’s complexity and of the difficulty many Americans have in understanding the program and making the right choices for their retirement security. It is so important for Americans to plan for retirement throughout their career and carefully consider when to claim benefits. These reforms will help provide the information needed to do just that.”
Economic Policy Institute Economist Monique Morrissey: “Delaying Social Security claiming isn’t a viable option for everyone, but more people might choose this strategy if they better understood the advantages. Clearer language and more frequent mailed statements would help people understand how delaying take-up can be a cost-effective way to increase secure monthly income in retirement.”
National Council on Aging President Ramsey Alwin: “Aging well means making informed decisions about our most important financial decision as we age: when to start claiming Social Security benefits. As people can increasingly expect to live into their 80s and even 90s, most will rely on Social Security for a large part of their income. The impact of claiming at age 62 can be pernicious, permanently cutting benefits by as much as 30%, making it much more difficult to afford the costs of retirement. More accurate claiming language and starting to mail statements again will help people make better informed decisions regarding when they should start to draw benefits to meet daily needs. NCOA is fully supportive of this bipartisan proposal.”
Consumer Federation of America President Susan Weinstock: “Understanding Social Security benefits is key to retirement planning. These bills, by requiring very clear language about claiming Social Security benefits at various ages and reinstating mailed paper statements, will empower people to make good decisions about their finances and to understand the implications of their decisions. Consumer Federation of America supports these bipartisan proposals.”
Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) President Cindy Hounsell: “Women have serious retirement challenges: lower wages and gaps in earnings, plus living longer. Maximizing Social Security benefits is of critical importance to their financial security as it represents an important foundation of income. As they age, many women rely on their benefits as their main source of income. Lack of information and knowledge not only affects decision making but can also affect confidence and the ability to plan for retirement. These bipartisan proposals will improve delivery of individual statements and offer much needed guidance to improve the way claiming benefits information is presented. The Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement (WISER) enthusiastically supports these bills to help individuals avoid the risk of costly long-term mistakes.”
One of the key financial decisions facing older Americans is when to claim Social Security retirement benefits. Social Security benefits are available to Americans who are as young as age 62, but those who choose to claim their benefits later receive higher monthly payments, with the maximum benefits available to those who claim at age 70 or older.
Most people do not claim benefits at the age that would maximize their income in retirement. By doing so, they forgo a significant amount of retirement income. To provide additional clarity for Americans deciding when to claim their benefits, this legislation changes the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) terminology from “early eligibility age,” “full retirement age,” and “delayed retirement credits” to “minimum benefit age,” “standard benefit age,” and “maximum benefit age” to better reflect Social Security’s claiming design and how the program works.
The legislation would also help Americans better plan for retirement by requiring the SSA to mail Social Security Statements—which detail how much a person has paid into Social Security and Medicare—every five years to individuals with Social Security accounts between the ages of 25 and 54, every two years for those between the ages of 55 and 59, and annually for those 60 and above.
Cassidy, Kaine, Collins, and Coons also sent a letter to SSA urging them to develop an action plan to help individuals make more informed claiming decisions.
“[W]e believe SSA should take more proactive measures to provide Americans with the tools and resources to determine how best to set themselves and their families up for financial security in retirement,” wrote the senators.