6 Ways Couples Can Maximize Social Security Payouts

Spouses have Social Security claiming options that single people do not.

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[See How Divorce Affects Retirement Benefits.]

Boost the survivor's benefit. Widows and widowers are entitled to the higher earner's full retirement benefit. Surviving spouses can begin receiving Social Security benefits at age 60, or age 50 if they are disabled. Benefits are reduced by up to 28.5 percent if claimed before the recipient's full retirement age. The surviving member of a dual earner couple can also claim a reduced benefit on one working record and then switch to the other. For example, a woman could take a reduced widow's benefit at age 60 and then claim 100 percent of the retirement benefits based on her own working record when she reaches her full retirement age. Most survivor benefits are paid to women because wives are generally younger than their husbands and live longer. A husband can increase the monthly survivor's benefit his wife will receive by 60 percent by waiting to sign up for Social Security until age 70.