(NewsUSA) - Waiting to take Social Security retirement benefits can increase your monthly benefit as much as 76 percent, according to a new toolkit, "When to Take Social Security: It Pays to Wait," released by the nonpartisan National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).

Key messages for older workers include: (1) If you need Social Security to make ends meet, take it -- you've earned it. (2) But if you can wait, even a year or two, your monthly benefit will be higher -- for the rest of your life. (3) If you are married, you have two lives to plan for. If you are the higher earner, waiting to take Social Security means a higher survivor benefit for your spouse if she or he outlives you.

"One of the most important financial decisions we make is when to start receiving Social Security retirement benefits," said William Arnone, Chair of NASI's Board of Directors and retired partner at Ernst & Young, LLP. "The gains from waiting are much greater than they used to be." A worker who can wait until 70 will get a benefit that is 76 percent higher than if she had taken Social Security at 62.

"Because Social Security lasts for life and keeps up with the cost of living, it may be the biggest asset a worker has," said Virginia Reno, NASI's Vice President for Income Security Policy.

If you think of Social Security as a key retirement asset, you may want to increase it by delaying when you start benefits, if you can.