“Claim and Suspend” Your Way to Bigger Social Security Benefits

If you read my last post on Social Security, I hope you took a few minutes to review your Social Security statement. If you had, one of the first things you noticed is a pretty big difference between the benefits you’ll receive at your early retirement age, your full retirement age, and age 70.

It’s all a matter of timing (and understanding important Social Security claiming rules!), especially if you’re married and plan to claim spousal benefits at some point.

One timing strategy that may help you and your spouse maximize your combined Social Security benefits is called “Claim and Suspend” (also known as “File and Suspend”). I’ll walk you through the basics using the “Sam and Ann” example from my spousal benefits post.

First, remember that:

  • Age 66 is the full retirement age for both Sam and Ann.
  • Sam earned more during his working years, so it’s in Ann’s best interest to file for spousal benefits.
  • Sam must file for his benefits before Ann can start receiving her spousal benefits.

Social Security Benefits If Started at Age (Chart)

Ready? Here’s how it works:

  1. At age 66, Sam applies for his full retirement age benefit of $2,071.
  2. This allows Ann (also age 66) to apply for spousal benefits. She’ll collect $1,035.50 per month (half of Sam’s benefit).
  3. As soon as Sam’s benefit application goes through, he immediately suspends the payment of that benefit. That lets him accrue delayed retirement credits (8% per year), increasing his benefit to $2,733 at age 70.

The beauty of this is that Ann can receive her spousal benefits while Sam earns his delayed retirement credits. And because Ann has filed for only the spousal benefit, she also earns delayed retirement credits, allowing her own benefit to top out at $1,180 at age 70.

The bottom line? Sam and Ann receive $12,426 in income each year from Ann’s spousal benefit. And they still get to look forward to their higher individual benefits at age 70.



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