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Are You Missing These 3 Ways to Claim More Social Security?

By Christy Bieber – Oct 3, 2021 at 5:30AM

Key Points

  • You can claim Social Security on your own work record or on a spouse's work history.
  • There are different ages you could start your benefit checks, and this will affect how much money you receive.
  • You can take steps to reduce taxes on benefits.

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Don't pass up your chance for more retirement income.

Do you want more money from Social Security? There are many ways to raise the amount of your benefit check, although the specific techniques that work for you can vary depending on your situation.

Check out these three solutions for supersizing your Social Security income and see if they can help you have a more secure retirement. 

Older adults on vacation taking a selfie.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Claiming spousal or survivors benefits

If you are currently married, you may be able to claim benefits based on your spouse's work record rather than your own. Spousal benefits are available if your spouse is still alive and has claimed benefits already. Survivors benefits are also an option if you've been widowed.

Divorcees may also be entitled to spousal or survivors benefits. And for spousal benefits, you don't need to wait until your spouse has claimed benefits if you've been divorced for at least two years. You do need to have been married for at least 10 years, though.

Not everyone is aware they can claim these benefits. But if your current or former spouse earned more than you, and their benefit is more than twice yours, they could potentially provide you with much more income than claiming your own benefits would.  

2. Minimizing your Social Security tax bill

Many retirees lose part of their benefits to either federal or state taxes, or both. You don't have to be one of them. You should make smart decisions about avoiding tax bills if you want to maximize your retirement money from Social Security.  

Just 13 states tax Social Security retirement benefits, so avoid living in one of them to escape taxes. Federal taxes can be harder to avoid, but they don't kick in until your provisional income hits $25,000 as a single tax filer or $32,000 as a married joint filer. 

Provisional income is defined as half your Social Security benefit, some nontaxable income (such as municipal bond interest), and all taxable income. If you can reduce your taxable income -- perhaps by investing in a Roth IRA or Roth 401(k) throughout your career -- you can ensure you don't send any of your hard-earned retirement benefits to the IRS. 

3. Choosing a strategic claiming age 

Finally, you can claim more Social Security benefits by being smart about when you start your checks.

You can file for benefits between 62 and 70, but you'll have a full retirement age (FRA) based on your birth year. Starting checks at FRA results in receiving your standard benefit. Claiming before means getting a reduced amount, and claiming after will result in larger checks until age 70

For those who expect to outlive their projected life span as determined by the Social Security Administration, or who have a lower-earning spouse who will rely on survivors benefits, a delayed claim tends to result in more lifetime income and makes the most financial sense. But for people in poor health who are unlikely to live long, filing ASAP could make sense to maximize lifetime benefits. 

Consider your marital status, your spouse's retirement plans, and your health when deciding what age to claim Social Security. By being smart about when you file for benefits, maximizing your lifetime income, and avoiding taxes, you can get as much money out of Social Security as possible. 

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