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How to Maximize Your Social Security Check

Taking a spousal benefit first, then your own, can raise your total in a big way

En español | Q. I’m 66 and trying to decide whether to apply for Social Security benefits. I plan to continue working four or five more years. My husband is 70 and began benefits at 66. Is it prudent for me to start mine now and squirrel them away — or should I wait until 70 for maximum benefits?

See also: Top 25 Social Security questions.

A. Before you make a choice, you should consider a third option that could substantially increase the money you and your husband would get from Social Security over the next few years. This option is only available to people who have reached full retirement age, like you and your husband.

Here’s how it works:
You delay taking benefits based on your own work record and, instead, apply for benefits as a spouse on your husband’s record. Your check would be equal to 50 percent of your husband’s.

And because you held back on your own benefits, you would accrue “delayed retirement credits” that would bump up your own future check by 8 percent a year until age 70 — 32 percent in total.

Then, when you turn 70, you could switch to your own benefit, if it’s larger than your spousal benefit.

For more information on this and another maximizing strategy, see this AARP Bulletin article on little-known strategies to increase your Social Security benefit.

You may also like: Are Social Security numbers reused?

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