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Getting All Your Social Security

Social Security benefits are complex and you can often miss benefits you are entitled to. If you fit into one of the categories below, pay attention.Widow or widower younger than 70. If your deceased spouse earned benefits, you may be able to collect those payments while you delay your own benefit and let it grow.I recently had a widower client who planned to build up her own Social Security benefit and delay receiving it until she turned 70, to maximize the monthly income. She was not aware, though, that she can collect survivor benefits now between ages 60 to 70, on her late husband’s Social Security record with no effect on her own benefit.Married with two incomes. If both you and your spouse earn benefits, coordinate both payouts with your other income.Let’s say Jim and Jane, both 60, are a married couple who both have significant benefits coming. Jim, the primary earner, plans on deferring his benefit until age 70 and Jane will start taking hers at her Full Retirement Age (or FRA, which ranges from 65 if you were born in 1937 or later to 67 of you were born in 1960 or later).Both Jim and Jane get an FRA monthly benefit of $2,500; both expect to live to 90. Jane plans to take a spousal only benefit at FRA, which is half of her husband’s FRA benefit, and allowing her own benefit to increase until she turns 70, which provides a better result.  Total Cumulative Benefit*Strategy808590Both take at FRA$900,000 $1,200,000$1,500,000One defers to 70$885,600 $1,233,600$1,581,600Both defer to 70 and one takes Spousal only at FA$931,200$1,327,200$1,723,200 * assumes no inflation increases Divorced. You might qualify for benefits off your ex-spouse’s record. This comes with a lot of conditions: You must be unmarried and your ex must be at least 62; and you must be divorced for at least two years after a marriage that lasted at least 10 years.Claiming this benefit doesn’t affect your ex-spouse’s other potential benefits and your ex-spouse will not be notified of your claim.If you get married again, you lose this benefit.Minors. Children of a deceased worker who are younger than 18 (or younger than 22 if the living worker is disabled) are entitled to a monthly benefit.A child’s death benefits depend on how long the deceased person worked: The longer the worker’s employment, the larger the benefit to the surviving minor. Each child can receive 75% of the basic benefit.Benefits to a surviving family are limited. If your surviving spouse also receives a survivor benefit, for example, each of your children’s benefits drops. The maximum benefit allowed per family ranges from 150% to 180% of the deceased’s basic benefit; if the family total exceeds this amount, each person’s monthly allowance decreases.If you die and your surviving spouse collects benefits while still working, he or she can forfeit those benefits to potentially free your kids from a reduction in survivor’s benefits.None of the above. It’s still important to meet with a financial advisor to plan your Social Security claiming strategy and coordinate benefits with your other sources of income.Follow AdviceIQ on Twitter at @adviceiq.John Dragstrem is a CFP at Wheaton Wealth Partners in Wheaton, Ill., and Naples, Fla.AdviceIQ delivers quality personal finance articles by both financial advisors and AdviceIQ editors. It ranks advisors in your area by specialty, including small businesses, doctors and clients of modest means, for example. Those with the biggest number of clients in a given specialty rank the highest. AdviceIQ also vets ranked advisors so only those with pristine regulatory histories can participate. AdviceIQ was launched Jan. 9, 2012, by veteran Wall Street executives, editors and technologists. Right now, investors may see many advisor rankings, although in some areas only a few are ranked. Check back often as thousands of advisors are undergoing AdviceIQ screening. New advisors appear in rankings daily. 

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