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Spouses: Are You Maximizing Your Social Security Benefits?

As you and your spouse worked for most of your lives, contributions to Social Security were automatically deducted from your paychecks. But the benefits that you're due to receive now that you're done working aren't quite so automatic.

You may have some choices to make when it comes to receiving Social Security benefits as a married couple, and certain decisions could be the difference between maximizing those benefits and leaving money on the table.

Income-Based Choices

As half of a married couple, you may qualify for your own benefits as well as your spouse's, which can be half of the amount your spouse is entitled to receive. If either of you earned significantly more income than the other, choosing that spouse's benefits could increase your overall retirement benefit amount. You can refer to your Social Security earning record for income data before making your decision.

Time-Based Choices

Obviously, the longer you wait to claim benefits, the larger your benefit amount will be. So delaying payouts until you reach full retirement age will mean more money in both you and your spouse's pockets. Even waiting beyond your retirement age can increase your benefits -- you can get an extra eight percent each year until you turn 70.

Not only does putting off collecting Social Security benefits increase your benefit amount, it can increase your spouse's as well. If the higher earning can delay collecting benefits until he or she turns 70, they will secure both the maximum benefit for their life and the maximum survivor benefits for their spouse should they pass away first.

Changing Choices

As CNBC recently reported, the Social Security Administration has been reducing the number of options that spouse's have for claiming benefits. There is no longer a "file and suspend" option and the "restricted application" has been limited to couples having one partner who turned 62 before January 2 of this year. To find out which plans are available to you and your spouse, and which filing strategy will maximize your benefits, you may want to contact and experienced Social Security attorney.

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