The first decision most people need to make is when to start collecting Social Security.
You have a normal retirement age under social security which depends upon when you were born, but for most of us, it will be 66 to 67. At that age you get your “normal” Social Security amount.
However, you can collect early any time after 62 and you can delay collecting until 70.
The bottom line is that if you collect after 62 and before your retirement age (67) they will reduce your benefit by 6.7% each year (reduced rate of 4.1% more than 3 years early). If you collect as early as possible, your benefit is reduced by 30%. For example, if you would have gotten $1,000 per month at 67 and you collect at 62, you will only get $700 per month for the rest of your life.
If you delay collection after 67, they increase your benefit by 8% for each year you delay. For example, if would have gotten $1,000 at 67 and you delay to 70 you will get $1,240 per month for the rest of your life.
After doing the math, the smart answers become obvious. First, don't start collecting early if you can avoid it because the 6.7% reduction is very large. Second, delay collecting Social Security because the increase is even larger. You essentially earn 8% on your money which is more than triple what you would earn on a high quality bond.
These figures are before any annual cost-of-living increases.
Even if you delay collecting your Social Security, you should sign up for Medicare only at age 65.