The cost-benefit analysis for singles is fairly straightforward. Delaying makes financial sense if you live long enough so that the extra amount you receive via fatter benefits more than makes up for the benefits forfeited during the waiting years.
Even if you live to average life expectancy, today's low interest rates change the equation for singles who delay, according to Slavov and Shoven. For a single woman with average life expectancy and a full retirement benefit of $1,500, the present value of her lifetime benefits would be $318,321 if she claims at 62, assuming a 0% interest rate. (Present value is the current value of a future sum.) That compares with $376,990 if she delayed until 70 -- for an 18% boost.
Why the difference? The authors say that when interest rates are close to 0% -- or even up to 2.9% -- the value of the future Social Security benefits is considerably higher than what you can receive if you placed the money in safe investments or an immediate annuity.
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