retirement

7 little-known Social Security benefits

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Betting against death
Betting against death | Westend61/Getty Images

Betting against death

On the other hand, some people advocate drawing Social Security benefits at the first opportunity.

Doug Carey, who founded the financial planning software firm WealthTrace, says Social Security doesn't see itself as an oddsmaker, but it does require you to bet on your longevity. For example, the break-even point for a person who earned the inflation-adjusted equivalent of $70,000 per year for 35 years is about age 80. If this person waits until 70 to claim Social Security and lives until at least age 90, he'll accumulate almost $162,000 more in benefits than he would if he had claimed at 62. But there's a possibility of losing the bet and getting nothing.

Retired law professor and Social Security expert Merton Bernstein says the longevity bet odds are bad, so claim early. "You never know when the bell will ring. I subscribe to the Woody Allen principal: 'Take the money and run.'"

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