Here are four strategies couples can use to help increase their combined Social Security income.
These approaches were written into Social Security law to encourage retirees to delay taking benefits, reducing costs for the Social Security trust fund. To use them, you must both be at “full retirement age” (eligible for 100% of your Social Security benefits) in all but one case. Full retirement age is 66 to 67, depending upon when you were born.
4 Strategies for Boosting Your Social Security and Spousal Benefits
1 Claim spousal benefits instead of your own
If you earned less than your spouse, your benefit checks will be smaller. But you might get a bigger check by “restricting” your application and claiming spousal benefits instead—half your spouse’s full retirement check. (Your spouse loses nothing.) Example: Your spouse’s full monthly benefit is $2,000. You get $1,000 in spousal benefits. Your combined Social Security income is $3,000.
2 Pump up the survivor’s benefit
Social Security has a survivor benefit for widows and widowers—100% of the deceased spouse’s checks. If you’re older than your spouse and earned more, you can inflate his/her survivor’s benefit by waiting until 70 to claim your benefit, says James Pavletich, who, with his wife, Jan, became consultants after long careers in the Social Security Administration.That grows your checks 8% a year. If you die first, his/her survivor benefit is 100% of your supersized check. Example: At your full retirement age, 66, you’d receive $2,200 a month. But waiting until 70 increases your benefits 8% a year, to $2,904. Your checks are larger and so is your spouse’s survivor benefit.
3File and suspend
If you’re the bigger earner, file for benefits at full retirement age, but hold off (“suspend”) taking them. That lets your spouse claim a spousal benefit from your work record while your payout keeps growing at 8% a year until you’re 70. Example: You and your spouse are both 66—your full retirement age. Your spouse wants to retire. Social Security will pay him/her $900. Your checks would be $2,200. If you file and suspend, waiting four years to collect, your spouse can collect a spousal benefit of $1,100 now and your benefit keeps growing, to $2,904 a month. When you collect at 70, your spouse can “revert” to his/her own benefit, now 8% a year larger, or $1,188, according to Pavletich. Together, you’ll pull in a combined $4,092 a month. If you die first, your spouse’s supersized survivor benefit is $2,904.
4Claim some now, and more later
You’re at full retirement age. Your spouse, 62, has a few years to go. You could both file now. You’d get $2,000. Your spouse would get $700 (70% of his/her $1,000 full benefit for claiming early). This is the strategy most couples use.
But, can you both live with smaller checks for a while? If so, you could claim a spousal benefit while letting your own benefit—the larger one—grow. Example: Your spouse gets $700 monthly, you receive $500 in spousal benefits—$1,200 a month total. When you’re 70, claim your benefit—now $2,640. Your combined monthly Social Security income is $3,340. Also, your spouse’s survivor benefit went from $2,000 to $2,640 a month. Calculate your Social Security benefits and talk to your financial advisor today. For more information, visit the Social Security Administration website at www.ssa.gov.
The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual. To determine which course of action may be appropriate for you, consult your financial advisor. This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor. Social Security Consultants and its represenatives are no affilaited with LPL Financial. This material has been prepared by LPL Financial. A registered investment advisor, member FINRA/SIPC. To the extent you are receiving investment advice from a separately registered independent investment advisor, please note that LPL Financial is not an affiliate of and makes no representation with respect to such entity. Not FDIC or NCUA/NCUSIF Insured | No Bank or Credit Union Guarantee | May Lose Value Not Guaranteed by any Government Agency | Not a Bank/Credit Union Deposit © 2014 LPL Financial LLC. All Rights Reserved. The information contained herein has been prepared by and is proprietary to LPL Financial. It may be shared via social media in the exact form provided, in its entirety, with this copyright notice. LPL Tracking #1-276898