Getting the Most Out of Social Security

Switching from Spousal Benefits to Personal Benefits

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consider switching from social security spousal benefits to personal benefits
Maximize Your Social Security

There are dozens of different Social Security strategies available for people looking to maximize their gain from their Social Security benefits, but one in particular, available to married couples, is to have one partner receive spousal benefits while deferring their own benefits until the maximum age of 70.

By doing so, you can collect a lower benefit at an early age and then collect a much higher amount when you reach the maximum age.

While not everyone can benefit from this strategy, it can be an effective method of ensuring that you get the maximum out of your social security benefits to help you fund your retirement.

How Does it Work?

If you are married to someone who has already filed for (and perhaps suspended) Social Security benefits, and you apply for benefits for yourself, then you will automatically receive either the normal benefits you are entitled to for your own work, or up to half of your partner’s benefits, whichever is higher.

To get half, you have to have reached full retirement age. Thus, if your partner receives $1000 in benefits monthly, and you stand to receive $300 from your own work, then you could instead receive up to $500 (up to half of your partner’s full retirement age benefits).

If instead you stand to receive $700 from your own work, then you would receive your full $700 per month (as that is higher than your entitlement for your partner’s benefits). This stipulation was built into Social Security so that couples where only one spouse was working would still receive social security for the other spouse.

Date of Birth Full Retirement Age
1937 or Earlier 65
1938 65 and 2 months
1939 65 and 4 months
1940 65 and 6 months
1941 65 and 8 months
1942 65 and 10 months
1943-1954 66
1955 66 and 2 months
1956 66 and 4 months
1957 66 and 6 months
1958 66 and 8 months
1959 66 and 10 months
1960 or Later 67

So why would you ever choose to take spousal benefits if they are less than the benefits you can get from your own Social Security? The answer is because while you are receiving spousal benefits, you still are not considered to have actually started Social Security yet, meaning that you can defer your own benefits until the maximum age of 70, and then switch to receiving them. Since you earn a delayed retirement credit for every year that you wait beyond your Full Retirement Age, this can drastically increase the amount of Social Security you receive. Essentially you get all the benefit of waiting until the maximum age to begin Social Security, while still receiving spousal benefits in the interim!

So is this a good idea for me?

While this strategy can provide a large increase in the total Social Security you receive, it can be quite tricky to actually perform. To begin with, your spouse has to have already filed for (and perhaps suspended) Social Security benefits, which means that typically only the younger of the two spouses can institute this strategy.

Every case is different, and so you are encouraged, before deciding on a Social Security strategy, to calculate out what the precise benefits will be in your case. You can use the NewRetirement Social Security Starting Age Calculator to help get you started. You should also review our article on when to start Social Security to figure out what the Full Retirement Ages and Delayed Retirement Benefits are for both you and your spouse.

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