Social Security for Married Couples

Social Security Claiming Strategies for Married Couples 1

Deciding when to begin receiving Social Security benefits is a major financial issue for anyone approaching retirement because the age at which you apply for benefits will affect the amount you'll receive. If you're married, this decision can be especially complicated because you and your spouse will need to plan together taking into account the Social Security benefits you may each be entitled to. For example, married couples may qualify for retirement benefits based on their own earnings records, and/or for spousal benefits based on their spouse's earnings record. In addition, a surviving spouse may qualify for widow or widower's benefits based on what his or her spouse was receiving.

One claiming strategy that has been used to boost Social Security income was recently eliminated by new rules contained in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. However, depending on your age, you may still have a limited window to take advantage of this strategy before the new rules take effect. It can be used in a variety of scenarios, but here's how they generally work.

File for one benefit, then the other

To file a restricted application and claim only spousal benefits at age 66, you must have turned age 62 by January 2, 2016. At the time you file, your spouse must have already claimed Social Security retirement benefits or filed and suspended benefits. If you were born in 1954 or later, you will not be able to use this strategy because under the new rules, an individual who files a benefit application will be deemed to have filed for both worker and spousal benefits and will receive whichever benefit is higher. He or she will no longer be able to file only for spousal benefits and will not be able to switch from one benefit to another at a later date.

A second strategy that can be used to increase household income for retirees is to have one spouse file a restricted application for spousal benefits at full retirement age, then switch to his or her own higher retirement benefit later.

Once a spouse reaches full retirement age and is eligible for a spousal benefit based on his or her spouse's earnings record and a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings record, he or she can choose to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, then delay applying for retirement benefits on his or her own earnings record (up until age 70) in order to earn delayed retirement credits. This may help to maximize survivor's income as well as retirement income, because the surviving spouse will be eligible for the greater of his or her own benefit or 100% of the spouse's benefit.

This strategy can be used in a variety of scenarios, but here's one hypothetical example that illustrates how it might be used when both spouses have substantial earnings but don't want to postpone applying for benefits altogether. Liz files for her Social Security retirement benefit of $2,400 per month at age 66 (based on her own earnings record), but her husband Tim wants to wait until age 70 to file. At age 66 (his full retirement age) Tim applies for spousal benefits based on Liz's earnings record (Liz has already filed for benefits) and receives 50% of Liz's benefit amount ($1,200 per month). He then delays applying for benefits based on his own earnings record ($2,100 per month at full retirement age) so that he can earn delayed retirement credits. At age 70, Tim switches from collecting a spousal benefit to his own larger worker's retirement benefit of $2,772 per month (32% higher than at age 66). This not only increases Liz and Tim's household income but also enables Liz to receive a larger survivor's benefit in the event of Tim's death.

1. 2. 3.  5. Newsletter  Insurance products and services are offered through Craig Colley | Coliday and is not affiliated with Gradient Securities, LLC. Some of these materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. The above information is not intended to provide, and should not be relied on for, tax, legal, or accounting advice.

Craig Colley

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Leave a Comment: