NEW YORK (MainStreet) -- The longer you wait to take your Social Security benefits at your full retirement age, the more money you'll get every month.
Those benefits make up 40% of all post-retirement personal income, according to the Nationwide Retirement Institute, yet only 15% of us elect to wait to full retirement age to take benefits, and just 10% start taking Social Security after 70.
The formula depends on the year you were born, but take workers born between 1943 and 1954 for whom the full retirement age is 66: If they decide to take benefits at 62, they would lose 25% of the monthly value of their Social Security checks.
Americans born after 1960 do worse. The full retirement age is 67, and workers in that demographic who took Social Security at age 62 would lose 30% of their full retirement-age benefit.
All told, more than half of Americans start collecting Social Security at 62 -- and four out of five women.
The "wait to take" is especially important, given increasingly extended lifespans. Women who reach 65 are expected to live to 86, according to government tables, and 25% will live past 90. Men who reach 65 can expect to live to 83 years old.
The NRI reported that women who take Social Security benefits early average a payout of $1,025 per month. But by waiting until full retirement age, that payout rises to $1,270. And if a women waits to age 70 (with at least 16 years of life expectancy left, presumably), that payout rises to $1,630.