Your Social Security Advisor

Maximizing Social Security Benefits – Ask Rusty

social security-rusty-marry-girlfriend social security benefits benefit increase medicareDear Rusty: I am currently 68 and am waiting to take maximum benefits at age 70. I have been retired for 3 and a half years. My wife turned 62 in February of this year. She stopped working around 1994. What is the best way to maximize our ss benefit? Both of us have longevity on our side. My wife’s parents lived into their 80s,her grandmother lived to 96. My mother lived to 84, my father to 98. We are both very active, no big health issues. Signed: Planning Ahead

Dear Planning: You’re already on a path to maximize your benefits by waiting until you are 70 to claim. Given that both of you are in good health and assuming you both live a long life, maximizing your wife’s benefit will yield you the most in cumulative Social Security benefits. Assuming you are the higher-earner, your wife’s highest benefit will probably be her benefit as your spouse, so maximizing her spousal benefit would be an excellent strategy. Although your wife is eligible to collect her own SS benefit at age 62, if she does so her eventual spousal benefit will be reduced to something less than 50% of your full retirement age (FRA) benefit. Here’s how that works: A spousal benefit, if taken at one’s full retirement age (66 ½ for your wife), is 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s benefit at his full retirement age (not the increased benefit you get by waiting until age 70). But if the spousal benefit is taken earlier than full retirement age it is reduced actuarially according to the number of months before FRA it is claimed. If your wife claims her own SS benefit at age 62, her eventual spousal benefit will be less than 50% of your benefit, because the spousal boost is added to her early benefit amount. Said another way, any time any Social Security benefit is taken earlier than one’s full retirement age it is reduced. In your case, when you claim your benefits at age 70, your wife will be 63 ½. If she is already receiving her own SS benefits she will be automatically deemed to be filing for a spousal benefit at that time, and the amount of her spousal benefit will be reduced due to starting it earlier than her FRA. However, if she is not yet receiving her own SS benefit, she will not be deemed as filing for her spousal benefit until she files for her own SS on her own work record. The only way your wife can get the full 50% of your FRA benefit amount is by waiting until her full retirement age to claim her benefits. And if you are both in good health and expect to live at least until your mid-80’s, your wife waiting until her FRA to apply will give you the most in cumulative lifetime benefits (as well as the highest combined monthly benefits). But keep in mind that the decision of when to claim benefits must always take into account current financial needs, current health and lifestyle, and anticipated longevity. If you don’t need the money right now, and if you’re both in good health and expect a long life, then maximizing both of your benefit amounts as described above would be a very sound strategy.

This article is intended for information purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of the AMAC Foundation’s staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other governmental entity. To submit a question, visit our website ( or email us at [email protected].

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4 years ago

I was married for 12 years and have now been divorced for 25+ years and will be 59 this year. As my dad died at 79 and my mom at 84, I do not expect to live past 80ish. Would it be beneficial to take SS using my ex-spouses benefit at 62, then mine at 68?

4 years ago
Reply to  Theresa

I’m afraid you do not have that option, Theresa. You cannot file for ex-spouse benefits first and then file for your own later. That’s an option only available to those born before January 2, 1954.

Ronald Frailey Rishel
4 years ago

I’m a little disturbed that Mich McConnell and Trump are going to take cut on my Social Security and Medicare, Medicaid away from us Old Timers. I’ve paid into this my whole life since I was 10 years old and now 73. The Government robbed us of this money now they want to take it away again. I know one thing for sure if they do take this stuff away Trump will not get my Vote on 2020 and all my family and friends will not Vote for Him either here in Michigan. Good bye President Trump, you are no different than the rest of them in DC now.

Steve Gerard
4 years ago

President Trump does not take a salary for his job, who has ever done it before, maybe you lived good the last eight years, but is in South did not, so I will vote for him, four more years.

Doug Jolley
4 years ago

Ronald, not sure where you’re getting your information from, but this president IS NOT cutting Social Security or Medicare benefits. The previous president made huge cuts to Medicare, shifting billions from there to pay for the Affordable Care Act.

We are a nation in crisis – taxes will have to be increased to pay for Medicare and Social Security. I expect to see full retirement pushed from the current 67 to 70 for GenX and younger generations.

4 years ago

Ronald, there is no meaningful or serious discussions in D.C. by anyone about cutting benefits for current recipients of Social Security or Medicare. There are discussions about Social Security reform, but current beneficiaries would not be hurt by any of the reforms being discussed. Anything you hear to the contrary is a scare tactic and hyperbole.

4 years ago

You are taking in fake news. The only president I’ve ever seen take from either fund was Obama . Of course that is commensurate with his political ideals. If anything, you have a better chance with Trump. He has the economy booming, which allows for more taxes into the SSI…that is happening. However, we really need to see that accelerate at a better pace, and see spending cuts in our government. There is billions and billions wasted every month. I think Trump would love to work on a “real” strategy to “fix” SSI. I tell my children to save, save, save….start young and be persistent, stay out of debt, and you will have a nice retirement. Don’t depend or leave yourself solely dependent on a government option .

Derwood Stacknick
3 years ago

Exactly HOW has President Trump proposed cutting SS? Are you falling for the democratic line that republicans want to cut SS?
I believe you are being misled!

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