In 2016, the rules were changed for married couples intending to use a Social Security claiming strategy to maximize their benefits. While the most advantageous “file and suspend” strategy was phased out, there is still an opportunity to maximize Social Security benefits. If you were age 62 by January 2, 2016, you are in the last group that will be allowed to claim a restricted application for spousal benefits only. I’m finding that many people are unaware of this opportunity and are inadvertently leaving money on the table, so let me explain with an example.
Let’s say you and your spouse are approaching age 66 (your full retirement age) and thinking of retiring. Neither of you have yet claimed your Social Security benefits. You still have the ability for the higher-earning spouse to begin taking SS benefits, while the other spouse takes a spousal benefit only – letting his/her own benefit continue to grow at 8% per year until he/she is age 70 and then switching to that higher monthly amount.
Of course, this is just one example of a claiming strategy. There are many different maximization scenarios. Be aware that this rule change applies to ex-spousal benefits as well, while widow’s strategies were left unchanged.
To recap the requirements:
You had to be at least 62 years old by January 2, 2016.
Your spouse needs to be claiming their SS benefits.
You need to be at your full retirement age (generally 66) before you begin.
This benefit is terminating as of January 1, 2020, so if you are in this last grandfathered group, don’t miss this opportunity! It’s more important than ever.
If it sounds confusing to you, please let me help you understand which claiming strategies are still available to you and your spouse. We use specialized software to sort through multiple strategies to find the right one for you. Just provide us with a recent Social Security earnings statement, and we’ll prepare an analysis for $59. Mention this article, and we’ll offer you a discounted price of $39.