Record numbers of older men and women began collecting Social Security benefits in 2009. New awards surged last year partly because the age-62 population grew rapidly. More importantly, older Americans were much more likely to claim Social Security in 2009 than recent previous years, probably because many seniors were unable to find work. Social Security benefits provide an important safety net for unemployed older adults, but early claimants receive permanently reduced benefits, threatening their future economic well-being.
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