Q&A: Social Security

Dear Liz: My husband decided we should take Social Security before age 65. I worked intermittently until 67. I do not get half of his Social Security as do many women who never worked. Can you explain why?

Answer: The reason is probably because your own benefit is greater than what you would get as a spouse.

When you apply for Social Security early and have a qualifying work record of your own, you are “deemed” to be applying for both your benefit and any spousal benefit to which you might be entitled. You’re essentially given the larger of the two.

Both potential benefits are reduced by the fact that you applied early, and you lost the option of receiving just a spousal benefit for a few years before switching to your own benefit.

This “claim now, claim more later” strategy could have substantially boosted your checks and the lifetime amounts you received from Social Security.

The decision to apply early can be a costly one and shouldn’t be made without fully understanding the consequences.

A recently published book, “Get What’s Yours: The Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security,” does a good job of explaining the options. Consulting a fee-only financial planner who is up to date on claiming strategies is a smart idea as well.

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