How can we maximize our Social Security benefits?


Q. I’m 63 1/2 years old and have been collecting Social Security disability since the age of 48. Right now my monthly benefit is $2,700. My wife just turned 63. If she started collecting her Social Security now, her reduced payment would be about $950 per month. If she waits until her full retirement age, her monthly payment will be about $1,400. What options do we have and what are our best choices to maximize benefits?
— Married guy

A. You do have some options to maximize your benefits.

Your Social Security Disability Insurance, or SSDI, generally sets your benefit as though you had achieved full retirement age or FRA, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with Equitable Advisors/The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

Assuming you were born in 1958, your FRA would be at age 66 and 8 months, she said.

“At FRA, you qualify for 100% of your benefit based on lifetime earnings,” she said. “When you reach FRA, you convert to a retirement benefit. If your wife began to collect on her benefit at half of your amount, that would be $1,350 per month so long as she waits until she reaches FRA at age 66 and 10 months,” D’Agostini said

If she wants to collect on her own benefit, she can delay collecting and her benefit will increase by 7 to 8% per year. At age 70, that would be approximately $1,736 per month including the delayed credits, she said.

The answer for when and how to collect should be based on your overall financial plan.

“If she is still working and is below her FRA, her Social Security will be reduced if she earns more than $18,960,” D’Agostini said. “The benefit will be reduced $1 for each $2 you earn over this amount. Once she reaches FRA, you can earn any amount without a reduction.”

If your wife is in good health and still working, and you do not need the money right now, it makes sense to delay collecting to maximize her benefit for as long as possible, D’Agostini said.

The most she could earn from your benefit is $1,350 versus $1,736 per month if she waits until age 70, D’Agostini said.

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This story was originally published on Sept. 17, 2021. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.