This paper provides a longitudinal view, spanning 10 to 12 years, of persons first accepting retired worker benefits at ages 62 or 63 in 1994 or 1996. Using HRS data, matched to Social Security administrative files, we present: 1) findings of variation in income, wealth, health insurance coverage and employability, along such dimensions as race, Hispanic ethnicity, gender, reported health status and functional ability; 2) findings of health and survival outcomes in 2006 for the 1994/1996 pooled sample, paying special attention to variations within the sub-sample of persons who accepted Social Security early retirement benefits by 1996; and 3) estimates of the proportion of persons accepting such benefits who are at risk. The findings indicate that persons first accepting Social Security retired worker benefits at ages 62 and 63 experience varying degrees of risk to their well being at these ages, and that these risks condition their well-being in retirement and survival probabilities. The major policy implication is that consideration should be given to providing a health insurance option for persons first accepting retired worker benefits prior to age 65. The major research implication is that retirement researchers should consider utilizing a range of measures -- as opposed to a singular and potentially narrow measure -- of risk when assessing the magnitude of risks existing for those accepting retired worker benefits at early ages.
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