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Should You Wait to Claim Social Security for Your Spouse's Sake?

By Maurie Backman – Dec 24, 2021 at 12:02AM

Key Points

  • If you're married, signing up for Social Security is something you should talk about with your spouse.
  • It could pay to delay your filing if you have a much younger spouse, even if you're inclined to sign up sooner.

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When you're married, it's not just your own needs to consider when filing for benefits.

There's a benefit to being single in retirement, and it's getting to call your own shots. Want to move to the mountains and spend your days basking in the great outdoors? Go for it.

But when you're married, the retirement decisions you make become a bit more complicated. That's because you'll generally have to factor in your spouse's needs in addition to your own.

One such decision you might struggle with in this regard is signing up for Social Security. You may want to file for benefits at a fairly young age so you can get that money sooner and enjoy it while you have more energy and better health.

Two smiling people embracing outdoors.

Image source: Getty Images.

Or you may not be in the best of health. In that case, it's often advisable to sign up for Social Security early, ahead of full retirement age (FRA). Doing so will result in a lower benefit payment every month but could also make it so you collect more money in Social Security in your lifetime.

While filing for benefits early might make sense in some regards, it could also pay to hold off for the express purpose of taking care of your spouse.

When your spouse inspires you to wait

You're entitled to your full monthly Social Security benefit based on your earnings history once you reach FRA. You can sign up earlier -- as soon as age 62 -- for a lower benefit or delay your filing beyond FRA for a higher one. For each year you hold off on claiming Social Security up until the age of 70, your benefits will get an 8% boost.

You may not want to delay your filing beyond FRA for a number of reasons. But if you have a spouse who's much younger than you, you may want to hold off for his or her sake.

Once you pass away, your spouse will be entitled to survivors benefits. That means your spouse will get a monthly paycheck from Social Security that's the equivalent of the amount you collected while you were alive. If you delay your filing, you'll snag a higher monthly benefit that could sustain your spouse financially in your absence.

However, if your spouse earned a high salary and is therefore in line for a decent Social Security benefit based on their wage history, delaying your own filing may not be necessary. But if your Social Security benefit is considerably higher than your spouse's, you may want to delay your filing to take care of your partner as best as you can.

Making sacrifices for the people we love

Being married often means having to put someone else's best interests ahead of yours. And that may apply when it comes to filing for Social Security.

While signing up for benefits at an earlier age may be preferable for you, delaying your filing could mean helping your spouse avoid financial worries for the rest of their life. And that's reason enough to make that sacrifice.

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