One of the reasons I got into journalism is to help people. I wanted to explain things they might not understand.

Last week, Stan Hinden, a former Washington Post colleague, who was a gem of a human being, died. He was 90. Hinden devoted a lot of his career to writing about money and, later on, to complicated retirement issues. He was a role model.

Hinden worked in various newspaper positions, including as a retirement columnist for The Post. After retiring, Hinden still devoted himself to informing fellow retirees about the mind-boggling issues they have to deal with in today’s economy. It was both a mission and passion for him.

When I last saw Hinden, I was, on his request, speaking to a group of seniors at his apartment complex. Many residents were concerned about how to leave money and assets to their adult children without creating disharmony. I had written a series of columns about estate planning and he asked if I could share my own experiences with handling my mother’s death and estate.

I spent the afternoon with Hinden and his neighbors, even staying for lunch. It was a wonderful day of public service. But this was the kind of man Hinden was. He was always thinking about how to help seniors navigate around tough financial topics.

I frequently – and still will – refer people to his book, “How to Retire Happy: The 12 most important decisions you must make before you retire.”

Here’s my review: Riding the Retirement Wave
John Bogle, the founder of the Vanguard Group, wrote the foreword for the book.

“With his firsthand expertise on retirement, his journlist’s gift for simple writing, and his considerable financial expertise, Stan Hinden has carried off with considerable success the challenge of helping those of us who are considering or experiencing retirement,” Bogle wrote.

I’m so sadden by Stan’s death but I’m so grateful he set the example of a journalist committed to service journalism. He will be missed.

Retirement rants and raves
I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging.

This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

I’ve been writing of late a lot about when to collect Social Security. I asked readers to share their experience. Did you take it early or late?

The response has been overwhelming with folks sharing their strategies for why they took it early or waited.

If you still want to weigh in on this issue, send your comments to

Here’s what some had to say about their decision.

George Welly of Warwick, R.I., wrote “I retired in August, 2007. The world’s markets collapsed the next month. There goes one leg of my retirement stool. Because of the markets, my pension fund, State of Rhode Island, started to implode. Consequently, my “too good to be true” guaranteed annual THREE percent compounded COLA was abolished by 2009. Yes, too good to be true indeed. Leg two starting to wobble. In 2009, I turned 62. I did NOT start collecting SSA, the third leg. I turned 70 four months ago, and just started collecting. I do not regret my decision. My secret sauce: Live beneath your means. I did that for the last fifteen years of my career. Fixed my own house, my own older cars, saved a lot of my income, maxed out my 457(b) and Roth IRAs. Then just kept doing it for a few more years after retirement. I also stayed in equities after the crash, and added all those savings to equities. My thinking: SSA has a COLA. Not much lately, but should be good inflation protection going forward. That 36% bump for waiting with inflators is excellent insurance.”

Nicholas Thimmesch of the District wrote, “Because I was severely impoverished, had no savings, assets, or employment and had spent periods of time in homeless shelters, taking an early Social Security was never in question: it was a matter of being able to find housing and eat.”

“I took Social Security at 62 and am now 65,” wrote Pamela Farris, a retired professor, at Northern Illinois University.” Sixty-six would have been my retirement age for full benefits. I, too, calculated that waiting until 66 or 70 wasn’t worth it. I actually put my benefits into the stock market each month. With the increase in the market, I’ve done very well.”

Steve Allen of Purcellville, Va., wrote, “I decided to retire when I was 62 1/2 and ran the numbers and they came out that the break-even point for me was when I would be about 75 years of age. The reason for this is that all of the months or years you delay you are getting exactly $0.”

Allen said he looked at the opportunity cost he’d be giving up because he has to replace the money he was not getting from Social Security from somewhere else. He took his benefits at 62 1/2.

“I ran the numbers and calculated that with a 2 percent return (roughly the dividend yield of the S&P) it would take until I was 78 and a few months to break even, and at 3 percent until 79 1/2. If you factor in a return rate close to the average annual stock market return (say 9 percent), it will take way into your 100s, if ever. This was totally the right decision for me, as I’m not married, didn’t intend to earn any income, and have enough other income to live on comfortably. I understand that everyone is different, but the numbers are compelling by themselves.”

Lots of folks argued they could take their Social Security benefits and invest the money. It sounds like a good idea with the stock market is roaring like it is now. But what about down years?

In the weeks to follow, I’ll share more of what people wrote or the early or late debate.

Here are some blog post Stan Hinden wrote for AARP on Social Security:

Congress changed the Social Security rules and got rid of a filing strategy called “file and suspend,” which allowed some married couples to improve their retirement benefits. Hinden answers questions about the aftermath.

“Social Security ended file and suspend by ruling that if workers at full retirement age suspend their benefits to earn higher benefits in the future, other related benefits such as spousal benefits will also be suspended,” Hinden wrote. “In other words, there’s no point in filing and suspending, because both benefits will stop.”

Hinden wrote: “Choosing the date to start could be one of the most important financial decisions you’ll ever make. It will determine how much money you’ll get each month from Social Security for the rest of your life. Over the years, your choice will be increasingly important if your Social Security income becomes a growing part of your retirement budget. So before you open the tap, you’ll need to do some hard thinking about your future finances.”

If you’re viewing this post online sign up to receive Michelle Singletary’s newsletters right into your email box: “Your Retirement” on Mondays and “Personal Finance” on Thursdays

Read and share Michelle Singletary’s Color of Money Column on Wednesdays and Sundays

Follow Michelle Singletary on Twitter @SingletaryM and Facebook