If you are currently married and thinking about filing for Social Security retirement benefits, it’s worth taking some time to learn more about the benefit filing options that are available only to married couples who have reached full retirement age. The filing decisions you make today are likely to have a permanent impact on the benefits that you and your spouse receive as a couple and in some instances, on the benefit the surviving spouse receives.
Timing is a key variable for everyone, but especially for married couples. Collecting benefits early, before reaching full retirement age, permanently reduces your monthly benefit by as much as 25%.
Of course, there may be good reasons for filing before your full retirement age. Health concerns, a reduced life expectancy and financial need are all important considerations.
As the chart below shows, your full retirement age is determined by the year you were born.
Married couples have a variety of filing options available to them. In the following example, we’ll compare two of these strategies to demonstrate the difference that filing strategy can make.
Remember…it’s your Social Security and your decision.
For simplicity, this example reflects only limited benefit filing options and variables. In fact, there are many factors that could have an impact on the amount of your Social Security retirement benefit. The benefit filing option you choose should be based on the realities of your personal situation.
No matter how and when you choose to begin collecting your benefit, it’s a good idea to contact the Social Security Administration ahead of time. That way, you can get the information you need to make an informed filing decision.
Bill and Karen
Bill and Karen, both 62, have been married for 40 years. Both have a family history of longevity and expect to spend many years in retirement.
Bill has earned more than enough Social Security retirement credits to qualify for a retirement benefit. At his full retirement age of 66, Bill will be eligible to receive a monthly benefit of $2,400, plus any cost-of living (COLA) increases.
Karen has also earned enough retirement credits to qualify for an individual Social Security retirement benefit of $1,300 at her full retirement age of 66, plus any COLA increases.
Our example assumes that both Bill and Karen are no longer working at the time they begin receiving their benefits.
Now let’s compare two different filing strategies for Bill and Karen.
1 Delayed retirement credits may accrue for each year beyond full retirement age that individual benefits are delayed. People born in 1943 or later who have reached full retirement age can earn delayed retirement credits equal to 8% of their full retirement age benefit, up until age 70. This can increase monthly benefit amounts by up to 32%. Spousal benefits are not eligible for delayed retirement credits.
Take the guesswork out of your Social Security filing decision.
Your Social Security retirement benefit is too important for guesswork. Learn more about your retirement benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov or contact your local Social Security office.
One of the most important steps you can take is to set up your own “My Social Security” page on www.socialsecurity.gov. This is an easy and secure way to view your estimated benefits and earnings history. The Social Security Administration will use this information when it calculates your benefit, so be sure that it accurately reflects your work history.
We’re here to help.
Once you and your spouse have set up your individual Social Security pages, your financial professional can help you explore different filing strategies. With this information, you will be better able to make an informed Social Security filing decision.
Important information for same-sex couples
“If you are in a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship, or a surviving spouse of a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal same-sex relationship, Social Security encourages you to file right away for benefits. This allows Social Security to determine if you are entitled to any spousal or survivor benefits.
If you have questions about how a same-sex marriage or non-marital legal relationship may affect your claim or to tell Social Security if you are married, separated or divorced, please call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) or contact your local Social Security Office.”
Social Security Administration, same-sex couples, http://www.socialsecurity.gov/people/same-sexcouples/