Social Security Planning

Choosing when and how to claim Social Security are important decisions that will have big ramifications on how much you earn throughout your lifetime. Take a look at the below and be sure to reach out to your RFA Senior Wealth Advisor should you have any questions. 

The Choice Is Yours

These are some of the reasons you may choose to claim Social Security benefits earlier:

  • You need Social Security income right away 
  • You want to invest your monthly benefit 
  • You want to delay having to take funds from other retirement vehicles
  • Your spouse wants to delay taking benefits 

These are some of the reasons you may choose to claim Social Security benefits later:

  • You want a higher monthly retirement benefit 
  • You want to maximize survivor income 
  • You plan to work longer 
  • You’re able to file for spousal benefits first, then switch to your own benefits later (for those with birthdays on or before January 1, 1954)

How Working Affects Benefits 

If you want to continue working and begin collecting Social Security benefits, it’s important to be aware of the earnings limits explained here

How Timing Affects Benefits

A large part of Social Security planning will be choosing at what age you want to begin taking benefits. Below are some options and what they mean for your bottom line.

At Full Retirement Age

Full retirement age (FRA) is determined by your year of birth. See the chart below to learn your FRA.

Year of BirthFull Retirement Age
1937 or earlier65
193865 and 2 months
193965 and 4 months
194065 and 6 months
194165 and 8 months
194265 and 10 months
195566 and 2 months
195666 and 4 months
195766 and 6 months
195866 and 8 months
195966 and 10 months
1960 and later67
Note: If you were born on January 1 of any year, you should refer to the previous year. If you were born on the first day of any month, your benefit at FRA is as if your birthday was in the previous month.

Before Full Retirement Age 

The earliest you may apply for and begin receiving benefits is at age 62. However, if you begin receiving benefits before your FRA, your monthly benefit amount is permanently reduced based on how early you begin. 

At Age 70

If you wait past FRA to take benefits, you will get a delayed retirement credit for every month you delay taking benefits between your FRA and age 70. Benefit increases no longer apply after age 70, even if you continue to delay.

Spousal Benefits 

Benefits From a Current Spouse

As a spouse, you can claim a Social Security benefit based on your own earnings record, or you can collect a spousal benefit that will provide you with 50% of the amount of your spouse’s Social Security benefit as calculated at their full retirement age (FRA), whichever is higher. How much you can get depends on when you begin taking benefits.

  • Before FRA: If you collect a spousal benefit and begin before reaching FRA, your benefit will be permanently reduced by about 7% for each year before FRA that benefits began.
  • At FRA: Benefits will be equal to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefits calculated at their FRA. 
  • After FRA: Spousal benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits like those applied to the benefit based on your own earnings.

Benefits From a Divorced Spouse 

If you are divorced, you can collect a spousal benefit that may provide up to 50% of your ex-spouse’s Social Security benefit. You do not need their permission to collect, nor will they be informed if you apply for or receive benefits.

To qualify, the following must be true:

  • You were married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years 
  • You are at least 62 years old 
  • You are unmarried 
  • You are not eligible for an equal or higher benefit based on your own Social Security record 

The following are exceptions to the rules above: 

  • The 10-year rule does not apply if you are caring for a child under the age of 16 or a disabled child
  • If you are not working and are caring for your ex-spouse’s child (younger than 16 or disabled), you may claim at any age and benefits will continue until the child reaches age 16 or is no longer disabled
  • If you remarry, you generally can’t collect based on your ex-spouse’s benefits unless your current marriage ends
  • If your ex-spouse is deceased and you remarry after age 60, you may still be eligible for benefits; for the application, you will need to know your ex-spouse’s Social Security number or their date and place of birth and parents’ names

The Social Security Retirement Application Process 

You can apply for retirement benefits or spousal benefits if all the following conditions apply:

  • You are at least 61 years and nine months old 
  • You are not currently receiving benefits 
  • You want your benefits to start no more than four months in the future

If you are a client of RFA, your Senior Wealth Advisor will be more than happy to walk you through the application process. 

You can also get started using any of the three methods below: 

By Phone: Call (800) 772-1213 

In-Person: Visit your local Social Security office (call first to make an appointment)

Online: Go to



Download Our Free Guide

This free guide is designed to teach you about the many factors involved in deciding when and how to draw Social Security benefits.

Among other things, this guide will cover…
• How your Social Security benefit amount is calculated
• Three important factors to focus on in order to best determine when to claim your benefit
• How to maximize spousal benefits, including filing a restricted application (if born prior to January 2, 1954)

Download Now

Live Chat