I overheard a conversation after church the other day that has had me a bit concerned. The conversation was something like, "Between 62 and 67, for every dollar you make, you lose a dollar of Social Security." This would seem like a strong argument for not starting Social Security payments until you were 67, assuming that you had significant investment income.
The actual details are not quite so frightening. It turns out that if you have earned income exceeding a certain level ($14,160 in 2011), there is a reduction in your Social Security payment for that earned income. But if your income is from interest, dividends, or other investment income, there is no reduction. In short, if you are still actively working, being a productive member of society, you will be punished. If you are just living off the income from your wealth, you will not be punished. That makes sense to you, doesn't it?
I knew that Social Security had changed the retirement age some years back, but I have never bothered to worry about it because:
1. I had hoped to be rich enough to just donate it to a charity each month.
2. It was a long ways off.
3. I wasn't terribly confident that Social Security would still be operational by the time I was old enough to collect it.
This page shows the sliding scale for full retirement age, based on when you were born. You can still retire at age 62, but with a corresponding reduction in the benefit amount. Something that I did not know is that you can delay retirement past full retirement age, and get a somewhat larger monthly benefit if you do so.