Saturday, September 14, 2013

Maximizing spousal Social Security benefits

Via the Wall St. Journal:

A white paper put out by the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College noted that 83% of married couples can benefit from “unusual claiming strategies” commonly known as “file and suspend” and “restricted application.”  Both claiming strategies take advantage of the simple fact that for every year that social security benefits are delayed beyond full retirement age, payments increase 8% until age 70. In this time of low interest rates, delaying social security is one of the best financial bargains available to workers.  Both strategies ease the pain of waiting by claiming spousal benefits.  Once having reached full retirement age (currently 66), a spouse is eligible to to receive benefits based on the earning of a partner. One member of a married couple claims a spousal benefit first and then claims a higher full retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings at a later time up to age 70. Spousal benefits are 50% of the partner's benefit, so some cash is flowing while waiting out as much of the time as possible to age 70.  There is no penalty for receiving the spousal benefit during this interim period.  For a married person to get spousal benefits, the primary beneficiary must first claim their benefits.

Under file and suspend , the primary beneficiary claims his or her benefit and then suspends receipt. The spouse then claims a spousal benefit. In this case both members of the couple wait to receive the higher deferred benefits, but the couple is receiving the spousal benefit during the interim period. If both defer their benefits, the total benefits the couple can receive can be quite high. If they both wait until 70 to claim their own benefits, their benefits will be 32% higher than the benefits they would have received if they had both claimed at full retirement age.

The second related strategy is filing a restricted application . While this strategy seems to be less well-known than file and suspend, we have found that this is more often the best strategy for a married couple.  With a restricted application, the primary beneficiary still needs to claim before the spouse can receive a spousal benefit, but the primary beneficiary doesn't suspend. He or she simply takes a benefit when the claim is made....

Read more in the WSJ.

Read the full report.

Retirement, Social Security | Permalink

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