Q. I retired on July 31st of this year after paying into Social Security for 30 years. In the last 25 of those years I paid the maximum amount based on earnings. How will my Social Security benefits be affected by my early retirement? What are my options as to when and how much I may begin collecting? Thank you.

A. The monthly Social Security benefit is determined on an indexed average of the highest 35 years of lifetime earnings. If a wage earner has more than 35 years of earnings, excess years are disregarded. If fewer than 35 years, some zero earning years are included in the calculation. You can estimate your retirement benefit based on your current work history by going on line to http://www.socialsecurity.gov/estimator/index.htm

If you intend to remain out of the work force, beginning benefits at your earliest eligibility age is a reasonable option. Benefits are reduced for early retirement, but the years of early benefits offset the lifetime reduction. Considering the time value of money, over an average life expectancy, the same total dollars will be received whether benefits begin at age 62, 70 or any month in between.