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How Couples Can Boost Their Overall Social Security Benefits

couple with pillow over ears

Let’s say you’re married and your spouse is younger than you are. When’s the best time to file for and receive the highest-possible benefits?

The quick answer: It depends.

One easy way to max out benefits is for the higher-earning spouse to wait as long as possible to claim. You can file as early as 62 and wait until 70. If you can wait until 70, you will gain the largest-possible benefit because Social Security will pay an incentive for waiting.

The bottom line is to coordinate your Social Security filing. You’ll need to take into consideration:

 

  • It often makes sense for both spouses to claim on the same spouse’s earnings record. Remember that your total benefit is based on how much you earned during your working career and the age when you take benefits.
  • Couples can use a “split strategy,” which means they claim at different ages. It might be worthwhile for the higher earner to wait longer to collect.
  • You need to compare benefit estimates between you and your spouse. The higher earner has the the larger primary insurance amount (PIA).
  • Consider having the lower earner collect first while the higher earner waits as long as possible. The benefits of this strategy will pay off over time: You will receive higher monthly payments.

At the very least, start looking at benefit estimates at various ages. You’ll be surprised at the differences over time.