Advertisement
retirement

How to Maximize Social Security Through Spousal Benefits

Spouses born before 1954 can still take advantage of a strategy to boost Social Security retirement benefits.

Question: If I take spousal benefits at 66 (my full retirement age), can I collect my own Social Security benefits at 70 and collect delayed retirement credits?

Answer: Yes, but only if you were born on or before January 2, 1954. Anyone born on or after that date is prohibited from using this claiming strategy, known as restricting an application for spousal benefits, because the government is phasing it out.

Advertisement - Article continues below

In addition, you must have reached full retirement age, and your spouse must have already claimed benefits, which means he or she must be at least 62 years old. If you are 66 and your spouse is 60, for instance, you would have to wait at least two years to claim spousal benefits.

Here’s why filing a restricted application is a smart strategy, assuming you qualify: If you can afford to delay filing after you reach full retirement age (when you’re eligible for 100% of the benefits you’ve earned), your benefits will grow 8% every year until you reach age 70 (after that, there’s no advantage to delaying).

For example, suppose you qualify for a $2,200 monthly benefit, and your spouse, who is at full retirement age, qualifies for a $1,400 benefit. You file a restricted application to claim spousal benefits, which are equal to up to half of your spouse’s full retirement age benefit—in this case, $700 a month. Your combined benefits will be $2,100 a month until you hit age 70. At that time, you can switch to a benefit worth $2,904. You and your spouse will then bring in a total of $4,304 a month, plus annual cost-of-living adjustments. And that higher benefit is the one the surviving spouse will keep after the first spouse dies.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement - Article continues below

If you want to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, you may need to speak to someone high up the chain of command at your local Social Security office. Some Social Security representatives may be unaware of the strategy or think it no longer applies to anyone. You may need to speak to a supervisor to resolve the issue.

If you don’t qualify to file a restricted application, there are other ways to get the most out of your combined Social Security benefits. One option is to have the lower-earning spouse file before full retirement age, even though that will mean a reduction in benefits (up to 30% if the spouse files at age 62). Use that income, along with income from other sources, to pay expenses while the higher earner’s benefits—which will get the biggest boost from delayed retirement credits—continue to grow until the higher earner turns 70.

Advertisement

Most Popular

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays
Markets

2020 Stock Market Holidays and Bond Market Holidays

Is the market open today? Take a look at which holidays the stock markets and bond markets take off in 2020.
July 1, 2020
What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?
tax brackets

What Are the Income Tax Brackets for 2020 vs. 2019?

The IRS unveiled the 2020 tax brackets, and it's never too early to start planning to minimize your future tax bill.
June 20, 2020
Searching for the Perfect Place to Retire
Empty Nesters

Searching for the Perfect Place to Retire

We home in on two places with less traffic and lower costs. 
July 2, 2020

Recommended

14 Social Security Tasks You Can Do Online
retirement

14 Social Security Tasks You Can Do Online

Why visit a government office to get your Social Security business done? You can do much of that online.
June 26, 2020
Find a Great Place to Retire
happy retirement

Find a Great Place to Retire

Our cities provide plenty of space to spread out without skimping on health care or other amenities.
July 2, 2020
Searching for the Perfect Place to Retire
Empty Nesters

Searching for the Perfect Place to Retire

We home in on two places with less traffic and lower costs. 
July 2, 2020
Hail to Your Finances, Regardless of Who Wins Presidency
retirement planning

Hail to Your Finances, Regardless of Who Wins Presidency

Don’t try to navigate your investment choices based on election uncertainty. And don’t wait to find out who wins in November to make financial decisio…
June 30, 2020