Get a Bigger Check From Social Security

Choosing the right time to collect benefits can boost your income by thousands of dollars a year.

Not so long ago, some people planning for retirement wrote off Social Security as an endangered benefit and a marginal addition to their post-career income. But in an era of disappearing pensions and erratic stock-market returns, the idea of guaranteed income for life that keeps pace with inflation holds fresh appeal. Increasingly, near-retirees are becoming aware of the value of working longer and waiting to collect Social Security benefits until the benefits are worth more.

But there are also a few clever -- and perfectly legal -- ways to time the collection of your retirement benefits to increase monthly checks for you, your spouse and any minor dependents. Play your cards right and you could increase your household income by thousands of dollars a year now, plus ensure larger benefits later.

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Mary Beth Franklin
Former Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance