Retirement Read Time: 4 min

Social Security: Maximizing Benefits

Most understand that waiting to claim Social Security benefits can result in higher monthly payments. However, many don’t know that there are other ways to maximize their benefits, some of which depend on their marital status.

Understanding the strategies for maximizing your Social Security retirement income benefits should be prefaced with a review of the three basic forms of retirement benefits:

  1. The Worker Benefit: This is the benefit you receive based on your own personal earnings history, and for which you become eligible after 40 quarters of work.
  2. The Spousal Benefit: This is the benefit paid to your spouse. For non-working spouses, this is 50% of the working spouse’s benefit. For working spouses, it is the greater of the benefit earned from his or her earnings or 50% of the worker’s benefit.
  3. The Survivor Benefit: This is the benefit paid to the surviving spouse, which is paid at a rate equal to the greater of his or her own current benefit, or, depending on the widow or widower’s age, up to 100 % of the deceased spouse’s current benefit.1

The first and most obvious strategy for maximizing your Social Security benefit is to simply wait to reach age 70 before beginning to take benefits. By waiting until age 70 to receive benefits, your monthly payments may increase by 24%, not including any cost of living increases that may be added to this amount.2

Benefit Maximization Strategies for Widows and Widowers

Remember, there is no spousal benefit for a widow/widower, but he or she does qualify for a survivor benefit that is equal to 100% of the deceased spouse’s benefit (versus the 50% spousal benefit if the working spouse is still alive). This survivor benefit is available at age 60 or even earlier, depending on the widow/widower’s disability status and whether or not they are caring for a child.3

If you are widowed and also have worked for 40 quarters, you will have a worker benefit and a survivor benefit. This presents you with several choices. One choice is to file for the benefit that provides you the greatest monthly benefit amount.

Another choice may be to start your worker benefit at age 62 and then switch to the survivor benefit once you reach full retirement age. This option is advantageous in instances where the widowed spouse did not accumulate the same level of benefits as the deceased spouse. Choosing this option allows the surviving spouse to take the higher survivor benefit amount. Because there are no delayed retirement credits earned on survivor benefits, there is no advantage to waiting past full retirement age to apply for survivor benefits.4

A final choice is to consider starting the survivor benefit at age 60 and then switching to your own worker benefit at age 70. This strategy allows you to begin receiving income based on the survivor benefit as early as possible and provides you time to build up the maximum worker benefit.

As you can see, there are ways you can potentially raise your Social Security benefits. These strategies can help you maximize your benefits beyond what is available to those who simply delay retirement to age 70.

1. SSA.gov, 2021
2. SSA.gov, 2021
3. SSA.gov, 2021
4. TheBalance.com, February 21, 2021

The content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. The information in this material is not intended as tax or legal advice. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. This material was developed and produced by FMG Suite to provide information on a topic that may be of interest. FMG Suite is not affiliated with the named broker-dealer, state- or SEC-registered investment advisory firm. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security. Copyright FMG Suite.

Share |
 

Related Content

Leaving Your Lasting Legacy

Leaving Your Lasting Legacy

Want to do more with your wealth? You might want to consider creating a charitable foundation.

Moneywoman: Unleash Your Inner Financial Superhero

Moneywoman: Unleash Your Inner Financial Superhero

The first National Women’s Equality Day was in 1971. Women couldn’t get credit cards in their own name back then. And if a woman became pregnant, she could be legally fired. Thankfully, a lot has changed, but some things haven’t. Women still do not receive equal pay for equal work. The gap is roughly 20%1, and women continue to live longer than men, now by an average of seven years.

The Cost of Procrastination

The Cost of Procrastination

Procrastination can be costly. When you get a late start, it may be difficult to make up for lost time.

 

Have A Question About This Topic?







Thank you! Oops!

Disability Protection for Your Employees and Your Business

Many business owners are surprised to learn that wages paid to a disabled employee, not subject to a written plan, are not tax-deductible business expenses.

Budgeting After a Divorce

Divorce is the second most stressful time in a person's life. Here's some tips to get through it.

How Retirement Spending Changes With Time

It can be difficult for clients to imagine how much they’ll spend in retirement. This short, insightful article is useful for jumpstarting a conversation about retirement spending, spending habits, and potential medical costs.

View all articles

Tax Freedom Day

Assess how many days you'll work to pay your federal tax liability.

What Is My Risk Tolerance?

This questionnaire will help determine your tolerance for investment risk.

Historical Inflation

This calculator shows how inflation over the years has impacted purchasing power.

View all calculators

Principles of Preserving Wealth

How federal estate taxes work, plus estate management documents and tactics.

5 Smart Investing Strategies

There are some smart strategies that may help you pursue your investment objectives

Managing Your Lifestyle

Using smart management to get more of what you want and free up assets to invest.

View all presentations

The Fed and How It Got That Way

Here is a quick history of the Federal Reserve and an overview of what it does.

Investments

You’ve made investments your whole life. Work with us to help make the most of them.

The Cycle of Investing

Understanding the cycle of investing may help you avoid easy pitfalls.

View all videos