5 Strategies to Get the Most Benefits Out of Your Social Security
It’s human nature to want to get the most out of everything. That’s why “stretching your dollar” appeals work so well. It’s also why people spend 15 minutes scrounging that last bit of toothpaste from the tube (you know you’ve done it).
As you are approaching retirement, you’ll want to do the same thing with your Social Security.
Of course, there are a lot of strategies to consider, and this list definitely won’t be exhaustive (unless you want a Encyclopedia Britannica-length blog post). But if you have just started thinking about Social Security and how you’re going to squeeze those last few dollar signs out of the tube…this is a good place start.
Boost Benefits While Your Income Has Peaked
Social Security bases your benefits on your income over 35 years. They pick your highest income years and do some mind-bending, brain-busting, soul-sucking math equations and bam! Out pops your PIA, which is your monthly Social Security Check. Here’s the moral of the story: higher average earnings over 35 years= higher PIA= more money in your Social Security check every month.
I take it you are earning more now than you did when you were 30? So what would happen if you would work a few extra years, making your peak income? Those lower income years (when you were just scraping by) could drop out of the equation, leading to a better Social Security check. According to Elaine Floyd, a Certified Financial Planner from Savvy Social Security Planning, waiting to retire until 70 as opposed to 62 will you earn you an extra $31,000 in increased Social Security benefits. It’s not a lot, but taken along with an extra eight years of fat income, it might very well be worth the extra work. Or—as Floyd put it—the extra $31,000 is like “icing on the cake.”
Maximize Your Money By Delaying Benefits
Good things come to those who wait. Delaying benefits until 70, 67, or even 65 can be difficult. It will take a strong financial situation, strong health, and a strong will. But your patience will be worth it in the end.
In fact, your benefit payment goes up by 8% for every year after full retirement age that you delay. That’s a lot of cash. So unless you can’t afford to wait or you have a low life expectancy, I recommend waiting.
Take Advantage of Spousal Benefits
Spousal benefits are 50% of the other spouse’s PIA (monthly Social Security check). For couples where one spouse is obviously the “breadwinner” of the two, this is especially beneficial to know. Because—a lot of times—half of the higher income earner’s Social Security check is way more than the full amount of the lower income earning spouse. And you can’t take both. But keep in mind, in order to claim spousal benefits, you have to have been legally married for at least one year and be at least 62. It’s also important to note that both the husband and wife cannot claim spousal benefits at the same time, and—it almost goes without saying—they stop when you are no longer married.
Collect Benefits From a Divorced Spouse
You may never want to see them again, but you may want to see their money. Don’t worry…this isn’t stealing! It won’t affect their benefits at all. It works exactly like spousal benefits. You get 50% of what your ex-wife or husband gets in their Social Security check. The only key here is that you have to have been married for 10 years and not be remarried.
Collect Survivor Benefits
If your spouse has passed on, you can collect his or her benefits on their behalf. You will have to forfeit your own check, but a lot of times your husband or wife’s check is better anyways.
So there you have it—5 ways to maximize your social security. But it is important to realize: Social Security (like all things involved with the government) is very complicated. It takes a person with a lot of expertise to help you get the most out of your social security, just like it takes a person with a lot of muscle to work out that last bit of toothpaste.
Wondering when you should start Social Security benefits? Have Social Security questions that need answered? Discover more about our free Social Security workshop designed to help you answer your most pressing questions.