This Social Security Spousal Rule Is Officially Finished in 2024 — But These 3 Strategies Remain


FEBRUARY 28, 2024

A Social Security spousal rule that has been around for decades officially ends this year for everyone except those who turned 70 on Jan. 1, 2024. The rule allows recipients to switch between their benefits and their spouse’s to receive the maximum amount. But unless you were born before Jan. 1, 1954, you won’t be able to take advantage.

As MarketWatch reported, under the expired rule, the higher-earning spouse would claim spousal benefits at full retirement age while the other spouse claims their own benefit. The higher earner would then switch to their benefits at age 70, which maximizes the monthly Social Security payment because of the delayed retirement credits. In addition, the lower-earning spouse would be able to claim a spousal benefit or keep their own, depending on which is higher.

With that rule no longer in effect, you need to find other strategies to maximize your spousal benefits. Here are three things you should do:

Plan Ahead

Making the most of Social Security spousal benefits requires having discussions about who should claim benefits and when. Social Security always pays the higher of the individual’s benefits or spousal benefits to the lower earner, MarketWatch reported. Couples looking to claim benefits are advised to create an online account with the Social Security Administration so they can review their estimated benefits at various claiming ages.

“It is critically important for married couples to do Social Security planning,” said Matthew Allen, co-founder and chief executive officer of Social Security Advisors, told MarketWatch.

Avoid Claiming Benefits Too Early

As GOBankingRates previously reported, the amount a beneficiary receives from Social Security depends on both their work record and when they file. Although full retirement age is now 67 for most workers, you can file a claim to start benefits as early as age 62. However, your benefits will be permanently slashed by as much as 30%.

For example, if your full retirement benefit is $2,000 per month at age 67, by filing at age 62, that monthly amount will drop to just $1,400.  A spouse’s Social Security benefit is directly tied to the payout that the primary beneficiary receives. If your spouse files for benefits at age 62, your spousal benefit will be permanently reduced as well.

But Don’t Necessarily Wait Until 70 To File, Either

Normally, the longer you wait to collect Social Security retirement benefits, the bigger your check. Waiting until full retirement age guarantees that you will get the full benefit you are owed, while waiting to age 70 ensures the maximum benefit. Just as workers face a reduced Social Security retirement payout if they claim early — such as at age 62 — those who delay their payouts will see them increase.

However, spouses can’t take advantage of the age 70 rule because their payout is capped at 50% of the primary beneficiary’s full retirement benefit. Even if your spouse waited until age 70 to collect Social Security, your maximum benefit would remain at 50% of the primary beneficiary’s FRA benefit amount.

Courtesy: GOBankingRates