These approaches are not for everyone. First, they carry some risk. Most significantly, you need to live long enough to make waiting extra years to take your benefits worthwhile. Also, the benefit amount may affect your tax bill, so you may want to consult a tax attorney before signing on.
Critics say these strategies benefit people who are better educated, have higher incomes and may be able to work longer. And the fact that better-educated people are more likely to know about them in the first place undermines the goal of Social Security, which has been to provide a benefit available to society over all, says Alicia Munnell, director of the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College.
Finally, they offer greater benefits for married couples, notes Kathryn Garnett, a Seattle-based consultant in retirement planning. And many people with lower incomes, especially single older women, can’t afford to wait for higher benefits.
However, if you’re part of a couple with a modest or average income and you’re able to use these strategies, you’ll likely see a significant impact on your household finances, says David Yeske, a certified financial planner in San Francisco. “If you’re a professional making several hundred thousand dollars, the impact is trivial. But if your income is $50,000 and you bring in a spousal benefit, that could have a substantial impact on your household.”
It’s possible that Congress may change these rules down the road; although experts say that if you’ve already begun claiming benefits, it’s likely that you’d be grandfathered in.
Karen M. Kroll is a financial writer based in Minneapolis.