9 Ways to Ensure Maximum Social Security Benefits for Married Couples

Planning for retirement can feel like trying to solve a complex puzzle. One key piece of that puzzle is maximizing Social Security benefits.  For married couples, there are several strategies to consider that can make a significant difference in your financial future.

Let’s talk about some effective ways to get the most out of your Social Security benefits.

1. Strategic Delaying for Similar Incomes


If both partners have similar incomes and expect to live long lives, delaying your Social Security claims can be a game-changer.  By waiting beyond age 62 up to age 70, you can boost your monthly payments by up to 8% each year.

Think of it as a reward for your patience. The longer you wait, the bigger the check you’ll get each month, which adds up significantly over time.

Split Strategy

Even if married couples start collecting on the same date, they often have different ages. Claiming at different ages, known as a “split strategy,” can help maximize benefits.

For example, one spouse may claim benefits earlier while the other delays to earn higher delayed retirement credits.

Primary Insurance Amount (PIA)

The primary insurance amount (PIA) of each spouse is crucial in determining the best claiming strategy. The PIA equals the monthly benefit one would receive at full retirement age.

2. Spousal Benefits for Disparate Incomes

When one spouse earns significantly more than the other, the lower earner might benefit more from claiming spousal benefits.

Instead of claiming based on their own earnings, the lower earner can receive up to 50% of the higher earner’s benefit at full retirement age. This strategy can provide a substantial boost to the total benefits the couple receives.

Spousal Benefits Maximization

One spouse can maximize their Social Security benefit by waiting past their full retirement age to apply, up to age 70. This increases the benefit amount significantly due to delayed retirement credits.

Coordination of Benefits

Coordinating the timing of when each spouse claims their benefits can help maximize the total benefits received. For instance, one spouse may start claiming early while the other delays until age 70.

Claiming Strategies

Couples can use strategies such as “file and suspend” or “restricted application” (if eligible) to increase their lifetime benefits. These strategies allow one spouse to receive spousal benefits while the other delays their own benefits.

3. Early Claiming for Shorter Life Expectancies


Not everyone expects to live to a ripe old age. If you and your spouse anticipate shorter lifespans, claiming benefits early at age 62 might be the way to go.

Sure, the monthly amount will be smaller, but starting early means you could receive benefits over a longer period, which could be more beneficial in the long run.

  • Couples with health conditions that might lead to shorter life expectancies may benefit from claiming Social Security benefits as early as possible, starting at age 62. This approach results in lower monthly benefit amounts but provides earlier income, which could be crucial for couples facing health challenges.
  • Early claiming can be a practical strategy when one spouse’s shorter life expectancy significantly impacts the overall financial planning, allowing the healthier spouse to delay their claim to maximize their benefits.

4. Longevity Increases

People are living longer these days, and that’s a fact. For a couple where one partner is 65 today, there’s a good chance that one of you will live to age 93 or beyond.

This longer lifespan means you’ll need your Social Security benefits to stretch further, making the case for delaying claims even stronger.

Delay Benefits for Higher Earners

One effective strategy is for the spouse with the higher earnings record to delay claiming Social Security benefits until age 70.

This increases the monthly benefit amount, which also boosts the survivor benefits that the lower-earning spouse will receive if the higher earner passes away first.

5. Survivor Benefits Considerations

Delaying Social Security claims doesn’t just affect your monthly check; it also boosts the survivor benefits for the spouse who outlives the other.

This is a crucial factor in your planning. By waiting, you can ensure that the surviving spouse has a higher income, which can be a significant financial relief during a challenging time.

6. Inflation-Adjusted Benefits

One of the great things about Social Security is that benefits are adjusted for inflation.

This means your benefits won’t lose purchasing power over time.  It’s like having a built-in raise that helps keep up with the rising cost of living.

Cost-of-Living Adjustments (COLA)

Social Security payments are adjusted for inflation through cost-of-living adjustments.

This ensures that the purchasing power of Social Security benefits is not eroded by inflation. This adjustment is crucial for maintaining the value of benefits over time.

7. Financial Planning Advice

Happy couple

Discussing your expected lifespans and retirement strategies with a financial advisor can make a world of difference.

A good advisor will help you navigate the complexities of Social Security and devise a plan that maximizes your benefits. It’s an investment in your future that can pay off handsomely.

8. Online Resources and Calculators

Fidelity offers a range of online tools and resources that can help you plan your retirement.

Retirement income calculators and Social Security benefit estimators are just a few of the resources available to help you make informed decisions.  These tools can provide a clear picture of what you can expect and how to optimize your benefits.

9. Educational Content on Aging and Retirement

Happy couple

Staying informed is key to making the best decisions about your retirement. Fidelity provides educational content on trends in aging, longevity, and strategies for claiming Social Security benefits.

This information can help you stay ahead of the curve and ensure you’re making choices that align with your long-term goals.

  • Working 35 Years: To qualify for the maximum benefit, it’s important to have at least 35 years of work history with earnings that meet or exceed the Social Security wage cap.
  • Hybrid Strategies: Some couples might benefit from a split approach, where one spouse claims benefits early and the other delays. This can provide income while still maximizing the delayed retirement credits for the higher-earning spouse.

Final Thoughts

Maximizing Social Security benefits requires a bit of strategy and foresight. By considering factors like delaying benefits, spousal benefits, life expectancy, and inflation, you can develop a plan that ensures you and your spouse enjoy a comfortable retirement.

Don’t forget to utilize available resources and seek professional advice to make the most informed decisions. After all, you’ve worked hard for these benefits – make sure you get the most out of them!