Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

Why Claiming Social Security Is Easier When You're Single

By Maurie Backman – Aug 25, 2021 at 5:18AM

Key Points

  • Social Security may be an important source of income for you.
  • Choosing the right filing age is essential to maximizing your benefits.
  • You may have an easier time deciding on a filing age if you're single.

Motley Fool Issues Rare “All In” Buy Alert

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Sometimes, being on your own in retirement can work to your advantage.

One of the most important retirement decisions you might ever have to make is when to sign up for Social Security. You're allowed to claim your full monthly benefit based on your personal wage history once you reach full retirement age, or FRA.

FRA depends on the year you were born. If you were born in 1960 or later, your FRA is 67. Otherwise, if you haven't reached it yet, it's 66 and a specific number of months.

Of course, you don't have to file for Social Security at FRA. You're allowed to sign up for benefits beginning at age 62, and you can also delay your filing beyond FRA if you don't need your money right away.

Person outdoors adjusting camera

Image source: Getty Images.

There are pros and cons to claiming Social Security early, on time, and after FRA. And you'll need to consider those carefully when making your filing decision. But if you're single going into retirement, you may have a much easier time making that call than if you're married. Here's why.

Your decision affects only you

When you only have yourself to worry about in retirement, you can file for Social Security at an age that works for you. But if you have a spouse to think about, your plans may need to change.

Say you're looking at an FRA of 67 but you decide you want to start taking benefits at 62. Maybe you've saved well for retirement and claiming benefits early will allow you to end your career early, travel, and meet other goals. If you only have your own needs to think about, you may decide to collect your benefits as soon as possible, even if it means reducing them by 30% in the process -- for life.

Someone who's married may not have that same option. A married person who expects to pass away well before his or her spouse may not be able to afford a 30% benefit reduction because that would leave the surviving spouse with less money for life (since survivors benefits are equal to the monthly amount collected while the Social Security recipient was still living).

Similarly, you may decide that you'd like to delay your filing until age 70 to squeeze more money out of Social Security. For each year you delay your filing past FRA, your benefits grow 8%, up until the age of 70. That decision could work out well for you. But someone who's married and delays Social Security makes it so that his or her spouse can't claim a spousal benefit for a longer period of time.

Of course, married couples do have certain advantages when it comes to Social Security. If both members of a given couple are entitled to a benefit of their own, they can coordinate their filings in a manner that works to their advantage.

But at the end of the day, the decision to sign up for Social Security may be an easier one to make if you only have yourself to think about. And that's something that could make it a lot easier when the time comes.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Invest Smarter with The Motley Fool

Join Over 1 Million Premium Members Receiving…

  • New Stock Picks Each Month
  • Detailed Analysis of Companies
  • Model Portfolios
  • Live Streaming During Market Hours
  • And Much More
Get Started Now

Related Articles

Motley Fool Returns

Motley Fool Stock Advisor

Market-beating stocks from our award-winning analyst team.

Stock Advisor Returns
S&P 500 Returns

Calculated by average return of all stock recommendations since inception of the Stock Advisor service in February of 2002. Returns as of 11/28/2022.

Discounted offers are only available to new members. Stock Advisor list price is $199 per year.

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.