Married and Turning 66? Time to Consider Your Social Security Claiming Options

Many people who are still working at age 66 have not looked into their options for claiming Social Security benefits. They simply plan to claim their benefits when they eventually retire or even wait until 70.

Delayed claiming is generally a good idea because it means that you will get a larger retirement benefit, but there are important advantages for many married couples if one spouse claims spousal benefits at 66 and then claims their own benefit later. So it is important to develop a Social Security claiming strategy, especially as the younger spouse nears age 66.

Here is an example. Suppose the husband is one year older than his wife. They both are working and they plan to continue working for some time. The husband’s Social Security Statement shows that he would receive a retirement benefit of $2000 if he had taken his benefit at 66, his full retirement age. The wife’s benefit at age 66, as shown on her statement, would be $1500. The wife has just reached 66. Because she has reached full retirement age, she can file a restricted application for a spousal benefit now, and then claim her own retirement benefit later. If she does this, she will receive a spousal benefit of half her husband’s retirement benefit, or $1000 per month. Then she can wait and claim her own benefit, which has grown by 32% at age 70. So at 70 she will start to receive $1980. In effect,she is being subsidized with the spousal benefit to wait for the larger retirement benefit.

If she does not claim the spousal benefit at 66 and simply waits until 70 to receive her own benefit she will lose $1000 per month or $48,000 in benefits over four years and her benefit at 70 will be the same as it would have been if she had just waited.

For a more complete explanation of these strategies, see our discussion of “file and suspend” and “free spousal.” We can also help you develop an optimal claiming strategy with our Social Security benefits calculator.

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