Early retirement is a goal many married couples work toward together. If you and your partner are on the cusp of an early workforce exit, it’s an exciting milestone to celebrate.
At the same time, it’s important that you and your spouse put your heads together to come up with the best plan for claiming Social Security. Here are a few strategies you might consider employing.
1. Have the higher earner claim Social Security early
If you’re retiring early but will need a hefty Social Security payday to keep up with your expenses, you might want to have the higher-earning spouse claim Social Security as early as possible. You can sign up for benefits beginning at age 62.
Though filing for benefits before full retirement age (FRA) could result in a substantial reduction in monthly benefits, the upside to going this route is getting more money to live on immediately. If you want to maximize your first few years of early retirement while your health and energy levels are strong, this could be the best solution — especially since you can also let the lower-earning spouse’s benefits continue to grow.
2. Have the lower earner claim Social Security early
You might need only a modest Social Security paycheck to keep up with your bills early on in retirement. And if your financial needs are minimal, it could pay to have the lower-earning spouse claim benefits early. That way, the higher benefit you’re entitled to can grow even more.
3. Delay Social Security jointly and live on savings or other income sources
A lot of people who wind up in a position to retire early do so because they’ve amassed a nice amount of savings. If you’re in that boat, you and your spouse might not need to sign up for Social Security at the start of your early retirement at all. And if you can hold off on claiming benefits until FRA or even beyond, you’ll lock in a higher series of payments for life.
Say you’re sitting on a nest egg worth $2 million. You might be able to get by on withdrawals from that plan alone for several years before worrying about supplementing your income with Social Security checks.
Even if your nest egg isn’t huge, you might still have other income sources at your disposal. Say you own one or two rental properties. If those homes are mortgage free and the monthly rent checks you collect are enough to maintain those properties and cover your own bills, you might not have to rush to file for Social Security at all.
Work together to come up with a plan
Regardless of when you and your spouse decide to file for Social Security, the important thing is to come to that decision together. This holds true whether you’re retiring early or not.
There are both benefits and drawbacks to claiming Social Security at various ages. The key is to weigh those options jointly and figure out what makes sense for you as a couple, keeping things like your respective ages, health status, and life expectancies in mind.
It also pays to have those conversations well ahead of retirement. That way, as that milestone approaches, you’ll be able to wrap up your careers early with more confidence.
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