The Investment Scientist

Social Security Strategy for Couples with Income Disparity

Posted on: May 8, 2014

I met a couple today (who could become my clients.) The husband is a medical specialist who has been making close to $1mm a year, the wife is a psychologist who was making peanuts. They are both retired now and planning to claim social security incomes.

To maximize their incomes, there is a little-know “File and Suspend” strategy they can use. Here is the gist of it according to Kipinger.

Say you are the higher earner and want to delay until 70. If your wife is 62 or older, she could collect her own benefit — but perhaps she’d get more money with a spousal benefit. One catch: She can’t collect a spousal benefit until you file for your own.


As long as you’re full retirement age, you file for your benefit and your wife applies for a spousal benefit. You ask Social Security to suspend your benefits. Your wife will still receive a spousal benefit, and you can continue to accrue delayed retirement credits until you reapply for benefits, presumably at age 70. Because you’re increasing the value of the survivor benefit, this “file and suspend” maneuver supercharges the survivor benefit for your wife if you die first.


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Michael Zhuang is principal of MZ Capital, a fee-only independent advisory firm based in Washington, DC.


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