By Sandy K. Johnson

There are more than 2,700 rules that govern Social Security, and there is a “magic” formula for every individual and couple to maximize their monthly check. The trick is finding that formula.

Mary Beth Franklin lectures about Social Security and writes about it for Crain’s Investment News. She said the basic rules are these:

  • You can collect Social Security retirement benefits as early as 62, but they will be permanently reduced by 25 percent or more for the rest of your life.
  • If you wait until your full retirement age, currently 66, you can collect full retirement benefits even if you continue to work.
  • But if you delay collecting benefits beyond the normal retirement age, you can increase the amount by 8 percent per year up to age 70. That’s a 32 percent increase.

Unless you need your Social Security payments to live on, the value of waiting is really important, she said. The 8 percent annual increase far exceeds any investment-type vehicle available in the current environment – “a smokin’ hot deal,” Franklin said.

She bemoaned the changes Congress made in two Social Security strategies: the end of file and suspend, and changes to claiming spousal benefits.

Franklin is a journalist who got a CFP (certified financial planner) accreditation so she could better explain rules for Social Security and other tax matters. The Social Security Administration has a large media office to help journalists with questions.