Maximizing Social Security Benefits for Married Couples

By Chuck Bentley

According to Blackrock, the world’s largest investment firm, if you are married, the decision of when to collect Social Security benefits is more than just a question of longevity. You may be able to switch between individual, spousal, and survivor benefits throughout your lifetime in order to maximize your Social Security income. Although each couple’s situation is unique, you may receive higher lifetime benefits by adopting one of the two simple strategies.

Both strategies involve “filing and suspending” at Full Retirement Age (or FRA, the age at which Social Security retirement benefits are equal to the Primary Insurance Amount, or PIA). This strategy, also called filing and deferring, allows you to file for Social Security retirement benefits, but defer your checks to a later date.

Maximizing Social Security Benefits for Married Couples

Once the higher earner files and suspends at FRA, his/her spouse is able to collect spousal benefits immediately. This strategy may allow the lower earner to collect spousal benefits earlier while letting the higher earner maximize his/her benefits. The strategy also has the potential to boost survivor benefits.

Your FRA is determined by when you were born. If you were born after 1954, then your FRA will be later than age 66. For instance, I was born in 1957, so my full retirement age according to the Social Security Agency is 66 years and 6 months. You can find your FRA at www.ssa.gov/pubs/ageincrease.htm.

For many, Social Security benefits are an important portion of your retirement income. It is only wise to develop a strategy to be the best steward of the resources you have set aside for your future needs.

Originally posted 5/12/2015.