How To Maximize Your Social Security Benefits If You’re Married

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If you’re married, there are a couple of things you and your spouse can do to make sure you’re getting the most out of any Social Security benefits. As a reminder, your personal Social Security benefit is dependent on how many years you worked — and how much you earned.

What you can do aside from considering your personal earnings record, however, is take advantage of other benefits afforded to married individuals. Making the wisest economic decisions for you and your spouse is vitally important to your overall fiscal health.

Learn: What Is the Average Social Security Benefit at Age 62?
Social Security Schedule: When September 2022 Benefits Will Be Sent

Play the Waiting Game

If both spouses work — and even if only one does — the best thing to do to ensure you are receiving a larger monthly check is to wait until age 70 to claim Social Security benefits. Although the overall amount one receives will end up being the same throughout a lifetime whether you claim at 62 (earliest possible age to claim) or age 70 (latest possible age to claim), your monthly check will be bigger if you wait.

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This also applies if both spouses wait. This way, both spouses receive a larger check at 70 than they would have at 62 — sometimes upwards of 30% larger. It should be noted that personal situations may not allow for this to be the case in all scenarios, however.

Claim Spousal Benefits

If you work, you will receive your benefit or the spousal benefit — whichever is greater. If you did not work, and have been married for at least a year, you can actually claim up to 50% of your spouse’s retirement benefits. The working spouse will need to have claimed their benefits already for you to claim on their earnings record.

If you did not work, or if you made significantly less than your spouse during your own work record, availing of spousal benefits is the best way to maximize your own social security benefit. If your spouse claims at 62, you will receive 30% of their benefit instead of 50%, as their check will be reduced as well.

An important thing to consider: if you are caring for a spouse’s child who is under age 16 and that spouse receives Social Security payments, you will be able to collect spousal benefits early without a reduction in the spousal benefit amount.

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About the Author

Georgina Tzanetos is a former financial advisor who studied post-industrial capitalist structures at New York University. She has eight years of experience with concentrations in asset management, portfolio management, private client banking, and investment research. Georgina has written for Investopedia and WallStreetMojo. 
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