Of all the assets available to support retirement, Social Security benefits are often the last to be included in strategic conversations. We spend decades building our net worth and a lifetime planning for the effective use of our assets in supporting our evolving lifestyles and goals. Yet, too often, our decision to begin taking our Social Security payments is based solely on age-related eligibility. Perhaps this is because we do not believe that there is much we can do to affect our future cash flows from Social Security. Perhaps we underestimate the lifetime value of this asset, especially as it compares to our investment portfolios.
Important Update: With the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act in November 2015, the Social Security "file and suspend" and "restricted application" strategies discussed in this article have changed. Please see the follow-up article, "Social Security Rule Changes," for details.