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Your Social Security election is perhaps the most important election you will vote on in your retirement. As you may be aware, you face a 25-percent reduction in benefit if you draw early. Meanwhile, your benefit goes up 32 percent for the rest of your life if you wait to draw until you’re 70 (assuming you were born before 1955). That’s a big decision.

One way to plan for the risk of one spouse significantly outliving the other is to have the higher-earning spouse delay benefits to age 70 because you are going to get that big 32 percent increase in your benefit. Whether you can afford to delay the benefit is another question. If you aren’t drawing your benefit, and you have to draw more from your own savings, can you afford to do that? If that high-earning spouse was born before January 1, 1955, then the spouse that is delaying can draw spousal benefit off the other spouse as long as the other spouse is drawing. So you can get a 50 percent spousal benefit without affecting your own benefit.

Your benefit continues to increase the 32 percent from age 66 to 70. These are very important things to consider when you look at all the risks to your income as long as either of you are alive and married. What are some strategies you can use to minimize that risk? Planning your Social Security election is one of those. It is important to understand how all of that works but keep in mind, if you delay your Social Security benefit, one additional pro is the tax benefit of not having that income on your tax return if your Social Security is taxed. The other thing you do have to be aware of is that you would then not be protected by the hold-harmless clause with Medicare premium increases. But, if you are doing the spousal benefit election, then you would be protected. As you can see this is a complicated issue so be sure you are incorporating all of this into your retirement financial plan.



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