Like most things regarding retirement planning, Social Security is not always the easiest program to understand. There is no single path, regarding claiming your benefits, that is right for everyone. And for married couples, the matter can become even more complicated.
Solid planning can help you maximize your Social Security benefits, which will comprise an important part of your retirement income for the rest of your life. So take the time to evaluate these points, and discuss the matter in more detail with your financial planner.
Spousal benefits versus claiming your own benefit. If one spouse’s earnings history greatly exceeds the other’s, it is often wise for the lower-earning spouse to claim spousal benefits. Spousal benefits amount to half of the higher-earning spouse’s check.
On the other hand, those with similar earnings histories will often do better by claiming their own benefits.
Maximizing survivor benefits. When one of you passes away, the other spouse can claim survivor benefits rather than their own benefit. This only works if the deceased spouse’s benefit was higher than the surviving spouse’s.
This is an important consideration when making decisions about when to claim your benefits. If one spouse has a longer life expectancy than the other, it stands to reason that maximizing their benefit as much as possible could be helpful to the other spouse later.
Consider the timing of your claims carefully, since delaying the claim from full retirement age up until age 70 does result in a larger monthly check. On the other hand, claiming benefits earlier results in a lower benefit amount, which can hurt the other spouse in the future if survivor’s benefits are needed.
These are just two of many issues that married couples should consider as they plan for retirement. Consult with us to learn more about Social Security benefits and how you can both maximize your own benefit amount, while better protecting your spouse.