Merrill: Can you apply for a spousal benefit if your spouse hasn’t?
Storey: A married person can only apply for a spousal benefit if his or her spouse is receiving retirement or disability benefits. People can no longer file and then suspend their benefits, allowing them to grow, while their spouses collect on their record, as they could before May 2016. And if you were born after Jan. 1, 1954, you can no longer “claim twice”—or file for spousal benefits at full retirement age while allowing your own future retirement benefit to grow.
Merrill: What’s your best advice for couples?
Storey: I’d encourage anyone approaching retirement age to speak with their financial, tax and legal advisors. When and how to begin claiming your Social Security benefits are important—and complex—decisions. And it can help to talk with those who understand the rules, as well as your personal situation.
Merrill: Is waiting always the right answer?
Storey: Waiting longer can increase the amount you receive over your lifetime, but what’s right for you may be very different from what's right for me. You’ve got to consider your health and your family history—how long do people in your family tend to live, for instance? If your parents and grandparents didn't live past 75, it could make sense to claim your benefits as early as age 62.
Your other retirement assets should also be considered: Claiming your benefits earlier might allow you to delay drawing income from your portfolio and give it more time to grow. Also think about your goals and the kind of lifestyle you want in retirement, as well as your immediate financial needs. A family caregiving situation could arise that requires your attention and financial support.
If, after you’ve considered all the factors, you feel that claiming your benefits before age 70 makes sense for you, you shouldn’t feel bad about not waiting. Social Security was conceived as a safety net. And it’s only valuable if you use it when you need it.
Find Your Full Retirement Age
If you were born on January 1, use the year before your date of birth to see when you become eligible to claim full benefits.
If you were born between 1943 and 1954...
You can claim full benefits at age 66.
If you were born between 1955 and 1959...
Your full retirement age increases by two months for each additional year.
If you were born in 1960 or later...
You can claim full benefits at age 67.
Your benefits will continue to increase every year you delay benefits past your full retirement age, until you reach 70.
For more information, visit the Social Security Administration website.