Until a few years ago, a retiree’s debate about when to draw Social Security revolved around age – usually 62 or “full retirement age”, somewhere between 65 and 67, or sometimes later if he didn’t need the money. However, Social Security rules are very complex, and someone discovered that there are all sorts of strategic possibilities for filing, including filing to collect a divorced spouse’s benefit, or a widow’s benefit, or even the “file and suspend” category which has one spouse collecting first on the other spouse’s benefit, then switching to her own. In short, there’s now a cottage industry formed around maximizing Social Security benefit payments.
If you thought this was something you could do yourself, put that out of your mind. You can’t possibly know all the rules. Did you know, for instance, that if you collect on your spouse’s benefit, and you are less than full retirement age, your spousal benefit will be reduced but may still exceed what you would get otherwise? And here’s a nifty trick. If you file and suspend at your full retirement age, and you still have young children in the house, your child can be entitled to half your benefit until their age 18!
We have reviewed multiple websites with information on filing strategies – some of which is incorrect. By far the best way to handle your own situation is to make an appointment with your local Social Security Administration office with your spouse in attendance if applicable, and let them tell you how to handle filing. Their database can provide numbers that you might need for this exercise and otherwise cannot obtain, such as a deceased spouse’s benefit. You may find that with little effort you can have your cake and eat it too.