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3 Social Security Strategies to Bankroll Your Retirement

By Maurie Backman - Mar 8, 2021 at 5:49AM

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These moves will help you maximize your benefits -- and enjoy the retirement you've always dreamed of.

Even if you save nicely for your senior years, you'll probably count on Social Security a lot for retirement expenses, so it pays to get as much money as you can out of it. Here are a few strategies to help make the most of your benefits.

1. Delay your filing as long as possible

You're entitled to your full monthly benefit, based on your personal wage history, once you reach full retirement age, or FRA, which is based on your year of birth, as per the following table:

Year of Birth

Full Retirement Age

1943-1954

66

1955

66 and 2 months

1956

66 and 4 months

1957

66 and 6 months

1958

66 and 8 months

1959

66 and 10 months

1960 or later

67

Data source: Social Security Administration.

You're allowed to file for Social Security before FRA; you can sign up as early as age 62, albeit at a reduced benefit. But you can also delay your filing past FRA, and for each year you do, your benefits will increase by 8%. This incentive applies up until you turn 70, so if your FRA is 67, you have a chance to boost your benefit by 24%, and that increase will remain in effect the rest of your life.

Smiling older man and woman holding hands outdoors

Image source: Getty Images.

2. Team up with your spouse for the best of both worlds

If you and your spouse are each entitled to a benefit based on your respective wage histories, you have a real opportunity to capitalize. That's because one of you can claim benefits at FRA to get some extra income for your household, while the other can delay filing for a permanent boost in benefits.

For this strategy, you can decide to have the higher earner delay benefits, or the lower earner; there's really no right or wrong answer. You could even have one spouse claim benefits early if the other is delaying as long as possible.

3. Supplement your benefits with a Roth IRA

Many Social Security recipients are surprised to learn that their benefits are taxable. But not all seniors are taxed on that income. Your benefits will be subject to taxes if your provisional income (your non-Social Security income plus 50% of your annual benefit) exceeds $25,000 as a single tax-filer, or $32,000 as a married couple filing a joint return. But if you house your retirement savings in a Roth IRA, you may be able to keep more Social Security income for yourself.

Roth IRA withdrawals are taken tax-free, and they don't count toward provisional income. Higher earners can't fund a Roth IRA directly, as there are income limits that change each year, but those who aren't eligible for that option can instead contribute to a traditional IRA and convert it to a Roth afterward.

The more strategic you are with Social Security, the more likely you'll be to enjoy your senior years to the fullest. Keep these ideas in mind during retirement planning; they could really work to your benefit.

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