Social Security benefits can go a long way in retirement, and many older adults end up relying on their monthly checks for a sizable portion of their income. In fact, Social Security makes up roughly one-third of the income of the elderly, according to the Social Security Administration.
It's wise, then, to take steps to make the most of your benefits. Whether you're nearing retirement or still have a few years left to prepare, there's one Social Security move to make with your spouse that can maximize your benefits.
When should you file for Social Security?
If you're married, one of the most important moves to make right now is to come up with a strategy for when each of you will file for benefits. You can begin claiming as early as age 62, but for every month you wait (up to age 70), you'll receive higher payments. If you and your spouse are both entitled to Social Security, it pays to have a strategy in place for when you'll begin claiming.
The right plan will depend largely on your personal preferences. You could, for example, have the lower-earning spouse claim early while the higher earner delays. That way, you would have some extra income earlier in retirement while also receiving larger checks down the road.
If you both want to retire at the same time, you could claim benefits simultaneously, as well. Just be sure you know how your age will affect your benefit amount so that you can avoid any surprises in retirement.
Factors that could affect your decision
There are a couple of other factors that could influence your decision about when to claim. For one, consider how much you expect to depend on your benefits in retirement.
If your savings are falling short, you both might consider delaying benefits to earn as much as possible from Social Security. Waiting until age 70 could result in receiving hundreds of dollars more per month, which could go a long way in retirement.
On the other hand, if you have a robust retirement fund, you might both decide to claim early. You'll receive smaller payments each month, but that may be a worthwhile sacrifice to spend more time in retirement.
Finally, your life spans could affect your decision of when to file. If one spouse outlives the other, the surviving partner can sometimes collect the deceased person's entire benefit amount in survivors benefits. In some cases, it can make sense for one person to delay benefits so that if they pass away, the surviving spouse will receive larger payments.
Social Security benefits play an integral role in retirement for many older adults, so it pays to have a strategy. By determining when you and your spouse will file for benefits, you can ensure you're earning as much as possible.