Married? Consider These 2 Factors When Claiming Social Security

The decision to claim Social Security isn’t an easy one. While waiting until full retirement age (FRA) will make it so you snag your full monthly benefit based on your wage history, it also means not getting your money sooner.

Meanwhile, filing for benefits at the earliest possible age of 62 means getting your hands on that money at a relatively young age. But it also means slashing your benefits in the process.

There’s also the option to delay benefits past FRA, which is a mixed bag. Doing so can result in an 8% boost to benefits for each year your filing is put off, up until age 70. But it could also mean having to delay retirement and work longer in the absence of having access to your Social Security income.

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But as complex as the decision to claim benefits may be, it can get even more complicated when you have a spouse to consider. In fact, here are two factors you must keep in mind if you’re married and thinking of filing for Social Security.

1. Will your spouse outlive you?

It may be that you have health issues and your spouse doesn’t. Or maybe your spouse is a lot younger than you. Either way, if you expect your spouse to outlive you and become reliant on Social Security, then it could pay to delay your filing as long as possible if you are the higher wage earner.

The reason? Once you pass away, your spouse will be entitled to survivors benefits from Social Security. Specifically, the monthly sum your spouse is eligible for will equal the amount you collect each month. So if you delay your filing past FRA and wind up with a monthly benefit of $2,000 as a result, that’s the monthly sum your spouse can look forward to.

2. Is your spouse entitled to a benefit of their own?

If your spouse never worked, they may still be eligible for Social Security based on your earnings record. In fact, your spouse may be eligible for up to 50% of your monthly benefit at FRA, so if you’re collecting $2,000 a month, your spouse will receive $1,000.

But in order for your partner to collect spousal benefits, you’ll need to file a claim of your own. If your goal is to delay your filing as long as possible, you may, in the process, prevent your spouse from getting access to any Social Security income.

Make a joint decision

Married couples are often accustomed to making joint financial decisions. If you’re gearing up to file for Social Security, it pays to adopt a similar approach before signing up for benefits.

It may be that your partner wants you to claim benefits at FRA or sooner so they can collect a spousal benefit. Or your spouse may want you to delay your filing to secure a higher survivors benefit.

The key is to have those conversations and come up with a filing strategy together — one that ultimately works well for both of you.

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