If you are married, it is important to consider your spouse when claiming Social Security benefits. Marriage brings about numerous changes in your life. Although you may be aware of the ways your partner has impacted your life, it’s possible that you haven’t considered how your marital status can affect your strategy for claiming Social Security retirement benefits.
Here’s an explanation of why your decisions concerning Social Security could differ when you’re married compared to when you’re on your own.
Social Security Claiming Strategies for Married Couples
Marriage can have a significant impact on when you begin receiving Social Security retirement benefits. This is because your choices can directly influence the financial resources available to you and your spouse during retirement. The decision-making process isn’t limited to what’s best for you alone; you must also consider how your decisions affect your partner.
Here’s the rationale: The Social Security Administration offers survivor and spousal benefits based on your partner’s work history. These benefits can sometimes result in a higher payout for a partner who didn’t work much or doesn’t qualify for their own Social Security retirement payments.
For instance, your spouse could be eligible for spousal benefits equivalent to 50% of your primary insurance amount (your standard Social Security benefit), contingent on when they choose to start receiving payments. However, your spouse can’t apply for spousal benefits until you initiate your retirement benefits claim. Therefore, while you might consider delaying your retirement benefits claim to receive higher payouts for each year you wait past 62, doing so could mean your spouse must also wait before accessing spousal benefits.
Survivor benefits could also be paid to your spouse in the unfortunate event of your death. These benefits could amount to as much as 100% of your benefit. Regrettably, if you retire before turning 70, you wouldn’t have maximized your benefits, potentially reducing the survivor benefits your partner could receive. This situation could lead to a financial setback for your spouse, particularly because your death would result in only one Social Security payment per month, compared to the two payments received when you were alive.
Considering Your Spouse’s Impact on Benefit Claiming
The scenarios outlined above are just two instances demonstrating how your spouse’s needs can influence your decision-making process regarding when to claim Social Security benefits. An early benefits claim would be necessary if you wish to expedite access to spousal benefits. Conversely, delaying your claim becomes crucial if your goal is to maximize survivor benefits.
The appropriate approach depends on your circumstances. If your spouse’s work history entitles them to a lower benefit and if this enables you to delay your claim for increased survivor benefits, this strategy might be beneficial. Your spouse could later switch to the higher spousal benefit once you claim retirement benefits. However, if your priority is to have both your benefit and spousal benefits available sooner, this approach might not align with your needs.
When deciding at which age to file for benefits, it’s important to take into account how it will affect your partner. Strive to adopt a claiming strategy that optimizes both your cumulative lifetime income and the income accessible when it’s needed the most.