Don’t retire early. Your Social Security payment will increase by nearly 7 percent each year you delay cashing in between 62 and 65, plus an additional 5 percent for each year until your full retirement age (now 66 to 67). After that, deferring payments will earn you an additional 8 percent a year until you hit 70. Waiting until full retirement age also gives you the option to use the “claim now, claim more later” strategy to boost your Social Security payout by tens of thousands of dollars. You start benefits based on the earnings record of your spouse or ex-spouse (the “claim now” part), allowing your own benefit to continue to grow until it reaches its maximum when you turn 70. Then you switch to a payment based on your own earnings record. Learn more about maximizing your Social Security benefits at bit.ly/153Quvh.
Consider a lifetime immediate annuity. In simple terms, you give an insurer a chunk of cash, and in return you receive a steady income stream. Immediate annuities have downsides: You typically can’t get the money back if you change your mind, and the amount you receive is tied to interest rates—so if you were to receive annuity payments now, when interest rates are low, your checks would be smaller than at a time when rates were higher.
Weigh your pension decisions. If you’re among the one in five private sector workers who still have a pension, you may be offered the option of taking a lump sum rather than a stream of checks for life. If you’re a disciplined investor, you theoretically could do better by taking the lump sum and investing it, says David Blanchett, head of retirement research for Morningstar Investment Management, a subsidiary of Morningstar Inc. The lump sum might also be a smart call if your annual pension reports show the fund is seriously underfinanced or the company is in trouble. Opting for the stream of checks might be better if you’re not that good an investor or money manager, or if your family is long-lived, since the checks would continue for life. Get advice from a fee-only planner.
Liz Weston is a personal-finance columnist for MSN and the author of Deal with Your Debt.
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