4 Strategies for Boosting Your Social Security and Spousal Benefits

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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
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.
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.
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