New federal legislation allows people aged 65-69 to collect full Social Security benefits no matter how much they earn. However, you still can wait until age 70 to start receiving benefits; if you do, you’ll get a larger benefit.

For example, if you pass up a chance to receive $1,000 per month at age 65, and wait the full five years, you’ll receive $1,300 per month at age 70. (These numbers exclude cost-of-living adjustments.) In order to defer your benefits, you have to call the Social Security Administration (800-772-1213) and request a delay.

Does it make sense to delay? Mathematically, the lines cross at around age 86. That is, if you receive benefits from age 70 to age 87 you’ll wind up with a larger amount than if you had started at 65. The older you live, the greater the gap will grow.

Thus, if (1) your parents had long lives (or are still living those lives); (2) you’re in good health when you reach 65; and (3) you don’t need the money immediately, it makes sense to wait until age 70 for a fatter benefits check. Also, delaying makes sense if you have a younger spouse who didn’t have substantial earnings. After your death, she’ll get a larger monthly benefit if you deferred taking benefits until age 70. Remember-the new law only affects those over age 65. From age 62 through 64, you’ll still lose $1 in benefits for every $2 you earn over $10,080, in 2000.