In 2016, the rules were changed for married couples intending to use a Social Security claiming strategy to maximize their benefits.
While the most advantageous “file and suspend” strategy was phased out, there is still an opportunity to maximize Social Security benefits.
If you were age 62 by Jan. 2, 2016, you are in the last group that will be allowed to claim a restricted application for spousal benefits only.
I’m finding that many people are unaware of this opportunity and are inadvertently leaving money on the table, so let me explain with an example.
Let’s say you and your spouse are approaching age 66 (your full retirement age) and thinking of retiring. Neither of you have yet claimed your Social Security benefits. You still have the ability for the higher-earning spouse to begin taking SS benefits, while the spouse takes a spousal benefit only — letting his/her own benefit continue to grow at 8 percent per year until he/she is age 70, and then switching to that higher monthly amount.
Of course, this is just one example of a claiming strategy. There are many different maximization scenarios. Be aware that this rule change applies to ex-spousal benefits as well, while widow’s strategies were left unchanged.
At the first spouse’s passing, the surviving spouse gets to keep the larger of the two SS checks. That’s why it is so important to look at the Social Security claiming decision as a joint decision to be made by both spouses.
And don’t forget that if you are divorced or widowed, you have more options available to you than just claiming your own Social Security benefit.
If you were married for more than 10 years before you divorced, you are eligible for ex-spousal benefits.
If you were married for more than nine months, are age 60 or older and are either unmarried or remarried after age 60, you are eligible for survivor’s benefits.
Go to www.ssa.gov or talk to a qualified professional to learn more about your specific circumstance.
To contact Marsh, go online to www.marshwealth.com or call 865-622-2162
Financial Planning & Investment Advisory Services are offered through Marsh Wealth Management, LLC — 504 Ebenezer Road, Knoxville, TN 37923 — an independent investment advisor registered with the state of Tennessee. Marsh is an Investment Advisor Representative of MWM in the state of Tennessee. Marsh Professional Group, LLC, is a TN registered public accounting firm, and a separate legal entity from MWM. For a detailed discussion of MWM, see the firm’s Form ADV on file with the SEC at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov.