Collect Social Security Before You Die?

Dear Dr. Don,Is it better to retire at 62 and start collecting some of the Social Security you have paid in? My way of thinking is: Don't wait until maximum retirement age to collect because you might not live that long. So why not get some of it as soon as possible? Right or wrong?-- Steve Startup

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Dear Steve,They call it personal finance because the advice has to fit the person. What's right for you may not be right for me. The Social Security Web page "When To Start Receiving Retirement Benefits," will help you work through some of the decisions you need to make concerning your Social Security retirement benefits.

My current thinking is that I want to wait until age 70 to draw Social Security retirement benefits because I want to maximize the retirement benefit that will be indexed to inflation over time. An inflation index on an annuity contract is very expensive. The government's inflation index for Social Security benefits is free.

If I decide to retire before my full retirement age of 66½, I'm willing to spend some of my retirement savings upfront to let me delay receiving Social Security benefits before age 70. If I started receiving benefits at age 62 they would be 72.5% of my full retirement benefit. If I wait until age 70 to start benefits I'll get 128 percent of my full retirement benefit. I'm more concerned about my retirement income and my spouse's retirement income in our 80s and 90s than I am about maximizing my total Social Security payments should I die in my 70s.