Married or Divorced? 3 Social Security Moves to Make Right Now
Social Security benefits can go a long way in retirement, especially if your savings are falling short. In fact, nearly one-quarter of workers say that Social Security will be their primary source of retirement income, according to a 2022 survey from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies. That means it’s especially important to ensure you’re making the most of your benefits.
If you’re married or divorced, there are a few extra steps you’ll need to take. By making these three moves right now, you can head into retirement more prepared.
1. See whether you’re entitled to spousal or divorce benefits
Even if you’ve never worked, you might still be entitled to Social Security benefits if you’re currently married or divorced. To qualify for spousal benefits, you must be at least 62 years old and currently married and your spouse must qualify for Social Security benefits. For divorce benefits, you can’t be married, your previous marriage must have lasted at least 10 years, and you also must be at least 62 years old to begin claiming.
In both cases, the maximum you can collect is 50% of the amount your spouse (or ex-spouse) is entitled to receive at his or her full retirement age (FRA). If you’re receiving more than that amount based on your own work record, you won’t qualify for spousal or divorce benefits at all.
For example, say you’re entitled to $800 per month in benefits based on your career earnings and your spouse will receive $2,000 per month at their FRA. In this case, your total benefit amount would be $1,000 per month.
2. Decide the age at which you’ll begin claiming
Age 62 is the earliest you can file for Social Security, but the longer you wait (up to age 70), the larger your monthly payments will be. If you’re married and your spouse is also entitled to benefits, it’s wise to come up with a strategy for when each of you will begin claiming. For example, maybe one of you will file at 62 to increase your income early in retirement, while the other delays benefits until age 70, to take advantage of those larger checks.
If you’re not currently married, it’s still a good idea to think about when you want to file. There’s not necessarily a right or wrong answer, but your decision will impact your monthly income for the rest of your retirement.
Claiming early can be a smart move if you have a robust nest egg and are eager to get a jump-start on retirement. On the other hand, if your savings are falling short and you’re looking to boost your monthly payments, delaying benefits could be your best bet.
3. Check your estimated benefit amount
Even if you still have years to go before retirement, you can check your benefit amount online by creating a mySocialSecurity account. From there, you can see an estimate of your future payments based on your real earnings.
When you know how much to expect from Social Security, it can be easier to plan for retirement. Not only will you have a better idea of your future monthly income, but you can also determine whether your savings are on track.
If you find that you or your spouse will be receiving less than you expect in benefits, it’s better to know sooner rather than later. If you wait until retirement to check your benefit amount, you may not have the chance to save more.
Social Security benefits make up a substantial portion of many retirees’ income, so it’s wise to maximize your monthly payments. Whether you’re married or divorced, taking these steps now can help you squeeze every penny out of Social Security.
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