When should you apply for Social Security?

More complicated for married couples
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More complicated for married couples

When engaging in retirement planning, married couples have two decisions to make. It makes sense to run the calculators for both spouses, looking at the different scenarios and combinations of income that could result from claiming Social Security benefits at different intervals, says Kay.

"It makes sense to play some 'what if' games to see how it will work on a cash-flow basis and a tax basis," he adds.

In some cases, where, for example, a wife had stayed home with the kids and didn't make as much money as her husband, Social Security benefits may be significantly lower, says Kober. In such cases, a wife can collect the equivalent of half of her husband's benefit if it's higher than the benefit she would receive based on her own earnings record. If the wife begins collecting checks earlier than full retirement age, however, she'll receive less than half of her husband's benefit.




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