If possible, delay taking your Social Security check until age 70. For retirees born in 1943 or later, Social Security benefits increase by about 7 percent each year you delay taking them from age 62 through 66 and by 8 percent until age 70, says Laurence Kotlikoff, an economics professor at Boston University. Plus, your actual payment will be indexed for inflation. So, if inflation is running at 3 percent, your benefit will increase at 10 or 11 percent for each year you delay taking it. Not bad for a little patience.
Good retirement planning does require patience—and fortitude. Though she was on the verge of cashing out, Fuchs, the Washington attorney, decided to stay put. "Part of it was inertia," she says, "but the other part was my 82-year-old father's voice in my head, constantly reminding me that investing was something you did for the long term." That's one voice in your head worth heeding.