3. Restricting benefits. The third potential strategy addresses married couples in which one spouse is retired and the other is still gainfully employed, and consists of restricting benefits to a spouse.
Here's how it works: Let's say a wife stopped working and is collecting Social Security benefits calculated from her time in the work force, but her husband still has a career and hasn't begun collecting Social Security. As long as he is at full retirement age, currently age 66, he can begin to receive spousal benefits, and then when he retires, he can suspend them and collect his own full benefit.
This means that he would get half his wife's Social Security income each month while still allowing his own benefits to accrue. Then, at age 70, he would apply to stop receiving the Social Security spousal benefit and file for his own. The bottom line: This becomes free money that most Americans simply don't know about.
Obviously, it is very important to work with an accountant or financial planner when making such decisions because many moving parts need to be carefully considered.
Clearly, retirement means different things to today's generations than it did in the past. What all retirees and pre-retirees need to think about are the various tools at their disposal that can maximize their financial planning over the long run. Actively viewing Social Security as one of these tools can be a critical step in the right direction.
This article was reported by Doug Lockwood for U.S. News & World Report.
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