• Financial Connection/Suze Orman

Should We Take Social Security at Age 66 or 70?

Q - Is there an easy calculation that indicates whether my wife and I should start taking Social Security at age 66 or 70? We are both approaching 66. Fortunately, my wife and I have worked our entire lives and at reasonably high income levels. If we both wait until either 66 or 70 to begin receiving Social Security, is there a family (marriage) limit on combined Social Security we can receive? As an example, if at age 70 I am to receive $3000 per month and my wife is to receive $2600, can we expect to receive $5600 in total each month?

A - There is no marriage limit. Social Security retirement benefits are based on your earnings record. If both you and your wife have paid into Social Security, you can each claim a benefit based on your own earnings record.

I encourage you both to visit the Social Security Administration's website and use its Retirement Estimator (ssa.gov/retire/estimator.html). This tool pulls your actual earnings history to give you a customized estimate of your benefit at your full retirement age (66 for you) and your benefit if you wait until age 70. If you are both in good health, I would recommend considering that at least one of you - the higher earner - wait until age 70 to start receiving a retirement benefit. By having the higher earner wait to claim the highest possible payout (you get no extra payments for delaying past age 70), you will ensure that the surviving spouse can claim the largest possible benefit.

Remember, once a spouse dies, the survivor is allowed to take only one of the two benefits. Making sure that the higher earner waited to take the maximum payout will leave the surviving spouse with the biggest benefit.

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