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Thayer Partners Blog

How to Maximize Your Social Security

[fa icon="calendar"] Feb 26, 2016 9:00:00 AM / by Chris Wilmerding

Chris Wilmerding

For eligible Americans, Social Security benefits are an importance source of retirement cash flow.

How_to_Maximize_Your_Social_Security.jpgThey can represent 30 to 60 percent of your retirement income. However, you might end up receiving less money than you’re entitled to—which can represent tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands, of lost dollars, if you don’t take the time to consider your options and maximize your benefits.

You need your benefits to last. The decisions you make now about your benefits can affect you, your spouse, and your family down the road. Use these tips to ensure that you don’t leave any money on the table.

Defer Your Benefits

The longer you wait to get your benefits, the more you will receive, which is a great reason to delay receipt of benefits from age 62 to age 70. For example, a 62-year-old man could be eligible for $1,800 in monthly benefits. If he waits until full retirement age (66), he’ll see a $600 increase per month. And if he waits until he’s 70, he’ll receive an additional $768 monthly benefits. This adds up to a 76 percent increase!

The time you choose to begin drawing your benefits could mean the difference between having enough cash flow for your retirement lifestyle and having to make major cutbacks.


If you elected to receive your benefits early (age 62), but later decide that you’d rather defer your Social Security benefits, you can do so by suspending them as early as age 66. Doing so will allow you to increase your monthly benefits by eight percent a year to age 70. The result will be a 32 percent overall increase.

Increase Your Benefits While Still Receiving Them

The Social Security benefits that you receive are calculated based on your highest 35 years of averaged indexed monthly earnings. If you choose to continue working while receiving your benefits and you end up bringing in a higher income than your previous 35 years of earnings, you can actually increase your Social Security. Your benefits will be re-calculated to reflect the higher earnings.

Spousal Benefits

Getting married is a joyous occasion, but it can also increase your benefits, too. If you get married, you will become eligible for spousal benefits a year later, which is equal to 50 percent of your new spouse’s full retirement age benefit.

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits will become available to you if you’ve been married for at least nine months. If you or your spouse reach full retirement age before death, the surviving spouse will receive 100 percent of the deceased spouse’s benefit amount. However, you can still be eligible for survivor benefits as early as age 60 at a reduced amount, or at age 50 if you have a disability.

Divorced Spouse Benefits

Though these benefits have very specific rules, they can offer you extra Social Security, similar to the amount you would have gotten if you were still married. To receive divorced spouse benefits, you must have been married at least 10 years, you and your spouse must be at least 62, you must be divorced for at least two years, and you can’t be remarried. 

Divorced Spouse Remarries

If you do remarry, you will become ineligible for the divorced spouse benefits. However, if your second marriage occurs after age 60 and your first spouse is deceased, you’ll be able to collect for ex-spousal survivor benefits instead.

The rules and regulations surrounding Social Security can be confusing and complex. Don’t let yourself lose out on retirement income that you are entitled to. Take the time to consider your options so you can maximize your benefits. This will allow you, your spouse, or your survivors to have more cash flow. Consult a Social Security expert and plan appropriately as part of your retirement income planning.


Topics: Social Security

Chris Wilmerding

Written by Chris Wilmerding

Chris Wilmerding is Principal of Thayer Partners, an independent investment management firm located in Westwood, MA providing financial planning and wealth management counsel to individuals and their families.

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