For Mark Roberts’ Use: Retirement planning can be a complicated topic, and accurately predicting the future is not always possible. But when it comes to Social Security, it pays (literally) to weigh your options, time your claim accordingly, and consider certain other factors before claiming your benefits.

Those “certain other factors” are often misunderstood. As you plan for retirement and Social Security, you and your spouse should also consider various estate planning strategies. Many retirees and soon-to-be-retirees overlook the issue of Survivors Benefits, an important area of Social Security planning.

In the event that one of you passes away, the other might be eligible for a Survivors Benefit beginning at age 60 (even if you’ve divorced in the meantime, in many cases). This benefit is also available to children and certain other dependents. The Survivors Benefit is equal to the deceased individual’s full benefit amount.

In the event that the lower-earning spouse passes away first, it might not make sense for the widowed, higher-earning spouse to claim a Survivors Benefit rather than their own. You can only claim one benefit; not both.

But when the situation is reversed, with the dependent spouse surviving the higher earner, it is important to anticipate this situation and prepare adequately for it.

So, how does this affect your claiming strategy? If the higher-earning spouse is also older, it might make sense to delay claiming benefits as long as possible. You receive your full benefit at your full retirement age (currently 66 or 67 depending upon your birth date), but you can earn a larger check by delaying your claim as late as age 70. On the other hand, you can accept a smaller monthly benefit and file your claim as early as age 62.

Once you file your claim, the monthly benefit amount is set. So, those with a spouse who would depend upon a Survivors Benefit might consider whether to wait a bit longer before retiring.

Of course, you shouldn’t make important, permanent decisions regarding your Social Security benefits based upon a single blog. If you’re interested in learning more about timing your Social Security claim, along with other issues concerning retirement and estate planning, give us a call. We will consult with you regarding your individual situation and help you make the decisions that suit your needs.