By some estimates, married couples have about 8,000 claiming options between them.
"Social Security is complicated, because life is complicated," said certified financial planner Gail Buckner, a national financial planning spokesperson with Franklin Templeton Investments. Married people must figure out not only when they'll file for their own benefit but also how to coordinate it with a spouse.
"To take advantage of the claiming strategies that bring in the big bucks, at least one [of the spouses] needs to wait," said Settle at SocialSecurityChoices.com.
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File and suspend has become a popular approach, particularly for couples with an age and wage disparity, Settle explained.
Let's say a husband, 66, and a wife, 62, take this route. At 66 the husband's full benefit is $1,000. By filing and suspending, the wife can claim her spousal benefit, which is half of the husband's benefit: $500. The husband's benefit can continue to grow until age 70. When the wife reaches 66, she can decide whether it would be better to take her own worker benefit or continue with spousal benefits.
For couples with comparable incomes, Settle recommends filing for "restricted application," a less familiar strategy. Using the same example as above, the tables are now turned. The wife can file for an early benefit of $750 at 62 (reduced by 25 percent for filing early). That allows her husband, who has reached full retirement age, to collect the spousal benefit of $500. One condition is that the husband should not yet have filed for his own worker benefit.