Whether you’re single during retirement or married, there’s a good chance Social Security will end up serving as an essential income source for you. But if you’re married, you may have more options than the average senior who’s single when it comes to maximizing those benefits. And so before you file for Social Security, make certain to check these important items off your list.
1. See what each individual benefit looks like
If you and your spouse each worked, you may each be entitled to your own Social Security benefit. But there may be a big discrepancy in those benefits, and so knowing what to expect could help guide your filing decision — both individually and jointly.
Imagine you earned a lot more than your spouse during your career, and so you’re now in line for a higher monthly benefit. What you may opt to do in that case is have your spouse file for Social Security right away while you delay your filing. Doing so will allow your benefit to grow into a larger amount, while your spouse’s filing might give you access to the income you need immediately.
Meanwhile, your spouse’s benefit may be so low that 50% of your benefit represents a higher sum than his or her total benefit. If that’s the case, your partner may need you to sign up for Social Security so that he or she can become eligible for spousal benefits. Either way, knowing what benefit you and your spouse are in line for can help you claim Social Security at the right time.
2. Assess your savings
It may be the case that you and your spouse are sitting on a $3 million nest egg. If so, it may not matter all that much when you claim Social Security, since at that point, those benefits may serve as leisure money more so than essential money for bill-paying purposes.
In fact, if that’s the case, you may decide that either you, your spouse, or both of you will file for Social Security early. You can sign up for benefits starting at age 62. Claiming benefits early may make it possible to travel more or do other things you’re apt to have more energy for when you’re a bit younger.
On the other hand, if you and your spouse aren’t happy with your savings, one or both of you might have to delay Social Security to compensate. And so it’s important to know how much income you can rely on your savings to provide.
3. Discuss your retirement goals
Maybe you want to buy a modest lake house and spend your senior years enjoying the view. Or maybe your goal is to move to a big city and indulge in fine dining and nightlife.
No matter how you envision your retirement, it’s important for you and your spouse to discuss those goals before filing for Social Security. You may decide, together, that delaying at least one set of benefits makes sense based on the amount of income you’ll need to spend your days the way you want to.
When you’re single and approaching retirement age, you only have to consider your own needs when claiming Social Security. But when you’re married, filing for benefits is really a decision that shouldn’t be made independently. Before you sign up for Social Security, spend some time hashing things out with your spouse so you can get on the same page and come up with a strategy that will make your dream retirement a reality.
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