Dear Liz: You’ve been answering several questions about when to start Social Security benefits. Most people who talk about the break-even point seem to fixate on when you’ll end up with the most money, but they’re only considering Social Security money. It’s worth pointing out that if one continues to work until full retirement those wages, for most of us, will add up to much more than the reduced Social Security payments for those first four or five years. So unless a person really hates his or her job, or poor health makes the person no longer able to do that job, working until age 66 or 67 will give a person the highest total.
Answer: That’s a good point, and it’s not just the wages you earn that are important. It’s the fact that you can delay tapping your retirement savings, so that those can continue to grow tax deferred. The effect of delaying retirement even a few years is so powerful that people who have saved substantially over their working lives can actually stop saving in their 60s — and use the extra cash for fun stuff like travel — without increasing their risk of running out of money, according to research by mutual fund company T. Rowe Price. The company has dubbed this approach “practice retirement,” and you can read more about it at http://www.troweprice.com/practice.