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I am no SS expert, but here goes anyway.

RBMunkin: "I've studied a good deal about what, how, and when to apply for social security benefits. But the one piece of information I'm looking for isn't easy to find apparently.

I've heard that the work years just before retirement count the most toward getting higher benefits."

Heard from whom? If you did hear/read this, then I surmise that the speaker/authoer including an unspolken assumption that one's last years would be ones highest paid years. That may or may not be a correct assumption.

" Say retirement is age 66. Is it true that the amount you make from ages 62-66 determine your benefits more so than amounts you make in earlier years?"

Only if the latter years replace lower earning years (and note that AIME is inflation adjusted) earlier in your career.

"I've read that they take the average of your highest 35 years. So that sounds like it doesn't matter WHICH years you make the higher amounts in."

I have read the same, and agree with your conclusion.

"My big question is, what if you stop working at age 60ish but don't claim benefits until 66 or even 70?"

those are zero income years for purposed of benefit calculations.

"Is that going to screw you over since the years close to retirement are zero income years?"

Only if (a) you do not have 35 years of earned income, so that the zeros get included int he highest 35 year calcuation or (b) your icnome in those years (if you had worked) would have been higher than earlier years (inflation adjsuted) included in your highest 35 years.

SS has started proding written statements again, so you you shoudl be able to review your own numbers and situation.

Regards, JAFO
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