Maximize Your Social Security Benefits

By Cindy Youngcourt

Before the New Social Security rules were signed into law on November 2, 2015, there were a few ways to maximize benefits for married couples, divorcees and widows for everyone.  Here is how the law stands now and what to keep in mind if you are taking social security or looking at when to take and how to maximize your social security benefits.

  1. If you were born prior to January 1, 1954 and are married, you can file and restrict your benefit.  Here is how it works.  You must be at full retirement age and not have started collecting your own benefits.   Your spouse must have filed for their benefits.   You would receive 50% of your spouse’s benefits at your full retirement age and at age 70, switch to your own benefit.  This allows your own benefit to increase with additional delayed retirement credits and cost of living adjustments. 

  2. If you were born prior to January 1, 1954 and are divorced and eligible for a benefit on your ex-spouse’s record, you can file and restrict your benefit.  Here is how it works.  You must be at full retirement age and not started collecting your own benefits.   It does not matter what whether your ex-spouse has filed for their own benefits.   You would receive 50% of your ex- spouse’s benefits at your full retirement age and at age 70, switch to your own benefit.  This allows your own benefit to increase with additional delayed retirement credits and cost of living adjustments. 

  3. If you are a widow and have not remarried by before you turn 60, you can file and restrict and there is no qualification based on date of birth.  If you benefit is lower than the widow’s benefit, you can apply for your benefits at age 62 and then switch the widow’s benefit at the survivor’s full retirement age.  Please note, the survivor’s full retirement age is different than the full retirement age.  If your benefits are higher, you can collect a widow’s benefit as early as age 60 and then let your own benefit increase with additional delayed retirement credits and cost of living adjustments and switch at age 70.

If you do not fall into one of these categories, there is still value to social security analysis.  We work with clients on when to take their social security to maximize their benefits over a lifetime.  We look at factors such as health, life expectancy, cash flow needs and the dollar figure for benefits for each spouse.  The social security office is not in the business of making recommendations for you to maximize your benefits.  This social security analysis is just one of several areas of the advance planning we do for our clients.

If you want more information or need some clarification, let’s schedule a time to sit down and talk. Please reach out to me, Cindy Youngcourt, at my direct line: (302)-254-6124.