We’ve been brainwashed into thinking Social Security isn’t going to be there for the long term, so many couples ignore it when it comes to their retirement planning. Their attitude is “Don’t count on it because it may not be there.”

It’s time to set the record straight. For most middle income couples, Social Security in fact makes up 20% – 50% of their retirement income—often upwards of $500,000 in lifetime benefits. Obviously, that is a large sum of money for just about anyone. Doesn’t it make sense to maximize that asset if you can?

Also, we don’t hear enough how unique Social Security really is as a retirement asset. For most married couples, Social Security is the only retirement asset that:

  • Is adjusted annually for inflation
  • Is tax-advantaged—at worst, it’s only 85% taxable as normal income
  • Will continue to pay as long as you live
  • Is backed by a government promise

With so much at stake, when and how to elect Social Security may be the most important decision middle income couples make in retirement.

Social Security Timing® evaluates all 81 election age combinations across 9 different election strategies and finds the highest lifetime benefit.

Most people are eligible to elect Social Security at any time between age 62 and 70. However, most people simply elect Social Security at whatever age they decide to retire, not the age when it will give them the maximum lifetime benefit.

How much you receive from Social Security depends on three primary factors:

  1. Your earnings record
  2. When you elect
  3. How long you expect to live

Since you can’t go back and change your earnings record, and you have minimal control over how long you live, calculating an expected lifetime benefit largely hinges on when you elect.

In theory, if you elect early, you will get a smaller benefit for a longer period of time. If you elect later, you will get a larger benefit for a shorter period of time. For single people, the decision of whether to elect early or later is usually as simple as answering the question: do you think you’ll live long enough to make waiting worth it? For example, if you decide to elect at 66, how long will it take for the larger payments to make up for the payments you missed from 62-65.

Single people can use a simple “break-even” calculator to determine how long they would have to live to make waiting worthwhile.

For married couples, however, the decision is much more complex.

Why? Because Social Security offers three distinct benefits for married people that these simple calculators ignore:

  1. Retired Worker Benefit: Based on your own earnings record
  2. Spousal Benefit: Provides your spouse with a benefit once you claim your own benefit
  3. Survivor Benefit: Provides your spouse with a benefit after your death

Virtually all of the simple break-even calculators in use today ignore the Spousal and Survivor benefits. More complex planning software includes spousal and survivor benefits but only for one combination of election ages. In short, neither tool offers a thorough analysis.

Social Security Timing® evaluates all 81 election age combinations across 9 different election strategies and finds the highest lifetime benefit.