Married couples have multiple options to claim Social Security in retirement, including specific strategies that use the timing of the claim to maximize spousal benefits. In certain cases, these strategies can result in an increase in both lifetime and survivor benefits.
Two of the most common strategies are restricted application and file and suspend.
Here is a comparison of the two strategies:
Restricted application. If you are currently married and have reached full retirement age, you can choose to apply only for a spousal benefit and delay taking your own benefit until age 70, at the latest. You would receive the spousal benefit now and could claim a larger retirement benefit later. In order to claim the spousal benefit, your spouse must have filed for his or her own retirement benefit.
File and suspend. If you file for your retirement benefits at the full retirement age, your spouse and dependent children can collect their benefits based on your earnings record. Once you have filed, immediately suspend your own benefits and delay claiming them until they are worth more at an older age. Your benefits will increase by an additional 8% for each year you delay collecting beyond your normal retirement age, up until you turn age 70.
It is important to consult a financial advisor or tax professional to determine the optimum time to claim Social Security benefits and which strategies may benefit your personal financial situation. More details on claiming Social Security can be found in “Social Security: Five things you need to know.”