Kelley Indianapolis professor’s research could have an effect on when you claim social security

At what age should you begin to collect social security? And what age is best for you to retire? There are many issues to consider when asking these questions and trying to make a decision that’s best for you and your family.

Research conducted by Helen Colby, assistant professor of marketing at the IU Kelley School of Business Indianapolis, may have an impact on when you decide to claim your retirement benefits.

Colby, along with her co-authors Suzanne Shu of UCLA’s Anderson School of Business and John Payne at Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, received a $50,000 grant from the National Bureau of Economic Research Retirement Research Center in conjunction with the Social Security Administration.

The researchers will use the grant to conduct multiple studies, including examining how the way you consider your life expectancy impacts when you choose to claim your social security.

Colby’s co-authors found in previous research that a person’s claiming decisions change when the wording changes in questions about death or dying.

“Asking someone the age he expects to live to, as compared to asking when he expects to die, are two different ways to ask the same question,” said Colby. “But ‘die-by’ really makes you think specifically about dying. ‘Live-to’ may make you think about these great things you’re doing to do, if you think you’re going to live until you’re 90. Thinking about this differently changes the time you intend to start claiming social security.”

“Previous research has found that when you think about death, you start to take actions that are in line with your fundamental goals. We are interested in how this extends to retirement decision making. For example, if thinking about when to claim social security makes someone think about death, does that make them want to take action to be able to spend more time with their family, or to travel, or to ensure they leave money to the next generation? And how does impact at what age they decide to claim?”

The researchers plan to conduct three separate studies that consider the answers to these questions, and whether social security retirement communications could be written differently to ensure people take their social security at the time that’s best for them.

The ultimate goal of this research is to better understand how people make decisions when they’re considering when to take their social security retirement benefits.

Helen Colby, assistant professor of marketing

"It also will help the Social Security Administration and investment planners better understand how to best help individuals choose when to claim, by changing how discussions around social security are framed,” said Colby. “Down the road, this research could potentially impact investment planners who are going to talk to you about when you’re going to take social security.”

Colby and her co-authors plan to conduct these studies with the hope of improving claiming decisions and promoting long-term financial well-being.

CONTACT: Teresa Mackin, 317-274-2233, tmackin@iu.edu