by Beth Donner, CRPC
The most lucrative of all Social Security benefits, known as File-and-Suspend, comes to an end on April 30. For eligible retirees, this needs to be viewed as a fast-approaching, critical deadline since the new and less favorable Social Security rules taking effect May 1 will limit claiming strategies—strategies that would have otherwise given baby boomers access to significantly more retirement income.
The File-and-Suspend benefit is available to spouses when at least one of the spouses has reached their Full Retirement Age. The latest date of birth to fall under the current lucrative rules is April 30, 1950, so anyone born May 1, 1950 or later is not eligible for File-and-Suspend. In addition, the person who wants to take advantage of this out-going rule would have to submit the request to the Social Security Administration on or before April 30.
Many Americans leave thousands of dollars in unclaimed Social Security retirement benefits with Uncle Sam, because they don’t understand the rules of Social Security. It’s not unusual for a married couple to miss out on $100,000 or more in cumulative lifetime benefits, because they have overlooked and misunderstood the File-and-Suspend and ‘Restricted Application’ options.
The monetary part of File-and-Suspend that allows couples to put more Social Security dollars in their pocket is the fact that one spouse (the lower wage earner) can receive income based on the other spouse’s (the higher wage earner) earnings record, while simultaneously having his or her own earnings record continue to grow at 8 pecent annually until age 70. Needless to say, there is currently no other place we can expect a guaranteed benefit increase of 8 percent annually. Smart pre-retirees easily understand this is a strategy they can no longer afford to overlook.
Social Security will continue to be critical to all Americans, because it remains the largest contributor to most retirees’ income and standard of living. Unfortunately, the majority of baby boomers underestimate the cumulative value of their Social Security benefits, but lifelong inflation-adjusted Social Security benefits can add up to over $1 million dollars for many couples.
Leveraging the rules of Social Security and implementing a claiming strategy that yields best-case results is crucial for every couple. The best and easiest way for pre-retirees to improve their standard of living in retirement is to maximize Social Security with a smart claiming strategy.
Donner is a Chartered Retirement Planning Counselor and can be reached at 919-601-0501 or Beth@DiversifiedPlanning.com.