Do Older Adults Accurately Forecast Their Social Security Benefits?


How accurate are older people’s expectations about their future Social Security benefits? Using panel data from the Health and Retirement Study, we compare respondents’ observed Social Security claiming ages and benefits with subjective expectations provided during their 50s and early 60s. We find that, while older adults generally have accurate expectations about their claiming age, they underestimate their annual Social Security income by approximately $1,896 (11.5 percent) on average. However, both accuracy and precision increase with age, and the forecast error for people in their early 60s is not statistically different from zero. Exploiting plausibly exogenous variation in the mailing of Social Security statements, which contain personalized information about future benefits, we show that information provision reduces the forecast error in annual income by $344 (2.1 percent of the average benefit).

National Bureau of Economic Research

JEL Codes

E21, H55, J14, J26


We thank Priyanka Anand for helpful discussion. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.

At least one co-author has disclosed additional relationships of potential relevance for this research. Further information is available online at

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Grant M. Seiter
Ph.D. Student in Economics

I’m a Ph.D. student in Economics at the University of Virginia.