What are Some Strategies For Optimizing Your Social Security Benefits

Social Security card among money

What are Some Strategies For Optimizing Your Social Security Benefits

What are some strategies for optimizing your Social Security benefits? Considering your eligibility and retirement age is essential for optimizing Social Security benefits. In this blog post, we will delve into various tactics that can help you optimize your benefits and secure a comfortable retirement.

We’ll begin by discussing the importance of understanding your eligibility and considering your retirement age, to make informed decisions about when to start receiving payments. Additionally, knowing the ins and outs of benefit amounts is vital in ensuring you receive the maximum amount possible.

Table of Contents

Maximizing Social Security Benefits

To maximize your Social Security earnings, it is necessary to be aware of your qualifications, contemplate the ideal retirement age for you, and understand the benefit amounts that you can expect. By doing so, you can make informed decisions that will maximize your lifetime income from this valuable government program.

Understand Your Eligibility

Your eligibility for Social Security benefits depends on how many work credits you have earned throughout your career. In general, most people need 40 work credits (equivalent to about ten years of employment) to qualify for retirement benefits. It’s important to review your Social Security statement regularly to ensure all your earnings are accurately recorded and verify that you meet the required number of work credits.

Consider Your Retirement Age

Deciding when to start taking Social Security will have a big effect on the amount you get each month. You can begin claiming as early as age 62 or delay until as late as age 70:

  • Early retirement: If you claim before reaching full retirement age (FRA), which ranges from 66-67 depending on when you were born; your monthly benefit will be permanently reduced by a certain percentage based on how early in relation to FRA.
  • Full retirement: Claiming at FRA allows individuals access their full entitled benefit amount without any reductions or increases applied due to timing.
  • Late retirement: Delaying past FRA results in an increased monthly benefit, known as delayed retirement credits, which can be up to 8% per year until age 70.


When mulling over the optimal time to claim benefits, elements such as healthiness, life expectancy, and financial needs should be taken into consideration. At Strategic Wealth Advisor, we can help you analyze these factors and make a decision that suits your unique situation.

Know Your Benefit Amounts

Your Social Security benefit amount is based on your average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) during the highest-earning 35 years of your career. The higher your AIME, the larger your benefit will be. To estimate what you might receive at various claiming ages:

  1. Review your annual Social Security statement for personalized estimates.
  2. Use online tools like the Social Security Retirement Estimator.
  3. Talk with a certified financial planner or wealth manager who specializes in retirement planning.


Gaining clarity about potential future income from Social Security allows individuals to create comprehensive plans, that address their long-term goals while optimizing available resources throughout retirement.

By understanding your eligibility, considering your retirement age, and knowing your benefit amounts you can maximize the amount of Social Security benefits you receive. Married couples may be able to take advantage of additional benefits, requiring a distinct set of calculations to determine the amount that is owed.

Social Security card among money

Spousal Benefits

Spousal benefits are an essential aspect of Social Security that can help married couples optimize their retirement income. By understanding how to qualify for spousal benefits; calculating the amount you may receive; and using claiming strategies effectively; you can maximize your Social Security payouts.

Qualifying for Spousal Benefits

To be eligible for spousal benefits, both spouses must have filed for their own Social Security benefits first. The spouse with the lower benefit amount can then apply for additional payments based on their partner’s earnings record. To qualify:

  • You must be at least 62 years old.
  • Your spouse must already be receiving retirement or disability benefits from Social Security.
  • If divorced, your marriage should have lasted at least ten years and you cannot currently be remarried (unless your new marriage occurred after age 60).


Calculating the Number of Spousal Benefits

The maximum spousal benefit is equal to half of the higher-earning spouse’s full retirement age (FRA) benefit amount. However, if claimed before reaching FRA, it will be reduced accordingly (use this calculator to estimate your potential spousal benefit). It’s important to note that claiming a spousal benefit does not affect the higher-earning spouse’s own benefit in any way.

Claiming Strategies for Married Couples

There are several strategies that married couples can use to optimize their Social Security benefits:

  • File and Suspend (no longer available): This strategy allowed the higher-earning spouse to file for benefits at FRA, then immediately suspend them. The lower-earning spouse could then claim spousal benefits while the higher earner’s benefit continued to grow until age 70. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 put an end to the File and Suspend strategy.


  • Restricted Application: If you were born before January 2, 1954, you may be eligible for a restricted application. This allows you to claim only your spousal benefit when reaching FRA while letting your own retirement benefit continue growing until age 70.


  • Claim Now, Claim More Later: In this strategy, the lower-earning spouse claims their own reduced retirement benefit early (before FRA), allowing the higher earner’s benefit to grow through delayed credits. When both spouses reach age 70 or later, they switch from receiving one reduced individual payment plus a spousal top-up payment based on half of each other’s full retirement amount.


Navigating these strategies can be complex; it is advisable to consult with a financial planner or wealth manager like Nancy J. Hite who specializes in helping clients maximize their Social Security income as part of an overall financial plan.

Realizing the potential of Social Security through spousal entitlements is essential, so grasping the criteria and its implications for you should be a priority. Understanding the rules around working while receiving Social Security benefits is also key for optimizing your retirement income.

Woman holding Social Security card

Working While Receiving Social Security Benefits

It’s common for people to stay in employment even after they start getting Social Security benefits. However, it’s essential to understand the earnings limits and delayed retirement credits that apply when you work while receiving these benefits. You also need to know how your employment income affects your overall benefit amount.

Earnings Limits and Delayed Retirement Credits

If you decide to work while collecting Social Security before reaching your full retirement age (FRA), there are earnings limits in place that can affect the amount of benefits you receive. In 2023, if you earn more than $18,960 per year ($1,580 per month) before reaching FRA, $1 will be deducted from your benefits for every $2 earned above this limit.

In the year when you reach FRA but have not yet attained it, a higher limit applies: If you earn more than $50,520 annually ($4,210 monthly), then $1 will be deducted from your benefits for every $3 earned above this threshold until the month of attaining FRA.

The good news is that once you reach FRA or later in life and choose to delay claiming Social Security beyond that point – up until age 70 – no earning limits apply anymore. Plus, delayed retirement credits (DRCs) accrue on a monthly basis at a rate of two-thirds percent each month (8% annually). This means by delaying claiming past FRA; you can increase your future benefit amounts significantly.

How Working Affects Your Benefits

Working while receiving Social Security benefits can have both positive and negative effects on your overall benefit amount. On the one hand, if you continue to work past FRA and delay claiming benefits, you will accrue DRCs that increase your monthly payments when you eventually start collecting them.

On the other hand, if you earn too much before reaching FRA, some of your benefits may be withheld due to the earnings limits mentioned earlier. However, it’s important to note that these withheld amounts are not lost forever; they are factored back into your benefit calculation once you reach FRA – ultimately increasing future monthly payments.

Besides affecting Social Security income directly through earnings limits or delayed retirement credits, working can also impact your primary insurance amount (PIA), which is used in determining initial benefit levels at FRA. Since PIA calculations consider an individual’s highest 35 years of indexed earnings history, continuing to work might replace lower-income years with higher ones – potentially raising PIA and subsequently boosting future benefits as well.

Earning while getting Social Security could be a great way to top up your income and make the most of life after work. However, it is important to understand how working affects your benefits, as well as taxation rules for Social Security income, so you can maximize the value of this benefit. Next, we will explore strategies for reducing taxes on Social Security income.

Taxation of Social Security Benefits

Understanding the taxation rules for Social Security benefits and implementing strategies to reduce taxes on this type of income, can significantly impact your overall financial plan. In this part, we’ll examine the taxation regulations and offer some practical advice for reducing taxes on Social Security benefits.

Understanding the Taxation Rules

The sum of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI), non-taxable interest, and half your Social Security gains can determine the amount subject to federal income tax. The Social Security Administration provides the following thresholds:

  • If filing individually and a combined income between $25K – $34K, then up to half of Social Security benefits may be taxable.
  • If filing as an individual with a combined income exceeding $34,000 or jointly filing with a combined income surpassing $44,000, up to 85% of benefits could be taxable.


Note that some states also tax Social Security benefits; however,13 states do not levy any taxes on them at all.

Strategies to Reduce Taxes on Social Security Income

To optimize your retirement finances by reducing taxes on social security income consider these strategies:

  • Control Your Withdrawals from Retirement Accounts: By strategically timing withdrawals from traditional IRAs or other pre-tax accounts like 401(k)s, so that they don’t push your combined income over the taxable thresholds, you can minimize taxes on Social Security benefits.


  • Consider Roth Conversions: Converting a portion of your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA allows for tax-free withdrawals in retirement. This strategy can help lower your future AGI and potentially reduce taxes on Social Security benefits. A financial advisor or tax expert should be consulted prior to deciding regarding Roth conversions, as other considerations may apply.


  • Invest in Tax-Free Municipal Bonds: Interest from municipal bonds is not included in the calculation of combined income for determining taxation of Social Security benefits. By investing in these types of bonds, you can generate additional non-taxable income that won’t affect your benefit taxation.


  • Delay Claiming Benefits: Delaying claiming Social Security until full retirement age (FRA) or later will increase your monthly benefit amount, and could result in less overall taxation, if done strategically with other sources of retirement income.


Incorporating these strategies into your overall wealth management plan requires careful consideration, and consultation with an experienced financial planner like Nancy J. Hite at Strategic Wealth Advisor. With her expertise, she can help guide you through optimizing social security incomes while minimizing tax burdens throughout retirement planning process.

The taxation of Social Security benefits can be complex, but understanding the rules and applying strategies to reduce taxes on income can help you maximize your benefit. On the other hand, there are several additional strategies that may also optimize your Social Security benefits; these include taking advantage of lump sum payments, utilizing survivor’s benefits, and applying for disability insurance.

Woman putting money into piggy bank

Other Strategies to Optimize Social Security Benefits

Aside from the tactics noted, there are other methods to make the most of your Social Security benefits. These include taking advantage of lump sum payments, utilizing survivor’s benefits, and applying for disability insurance.

Taking Advantage of Lump Sum Payments

If you have delayed claiming your Social Security benefits past your full retirement age (FRA), you may be eligible for a lump-sum payment. This is a one-time payment that covers the amount of money you would have received if you had started collecting benefits at FRA up until the point when you start receiving them. Before opting for a lump-sum payment, it is essential to consider the potential impacts on your total lifetime benefit amount.

Utilizing Survivor’s Benefits

Survivor’s benefits are available to widows or widowers who meet certain eligibility requirements based on their deceased spouse’s work history and earnings record. By understanding these rules and coordinating with spousal benefits, surviving spouses can potentially maximize their total Social Security income over time.

  • Widows’/Widowers’ Benefit: If a widow or widower has reached full retirement age (FRA), they can receive 100% of their deceased spouse’s benefit amount if they do not remarry before reaching age 60.
  • Reduced Widows’/Widowers’ Benefit: Widows or widowers between ages 60 – 65 can claim a reduced survivor’s benefit, ranging from 71.5% to 99% of the deceased spouse’s full benefit amount.


Applying for Disability Insurance

Those who are unable to work due to a disability may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). SSDI provides monthly benefits based on your earnings record and can help supplement your income while you’re unable to work. It is important to apply quickly after becoming disabled, since the procedure may take many months or even years in some situations.

Optimizing Social Security benefits requires careful planning and consideration of various factors such as eligibility, retirement age, spousal benefits, working while receiving benefits, taxation rules, lump sum payments, survivor’s benefits and applying for disability insurance. A certified financial planner like Nancy J. Hite can provide valuable guidance in navigating these complex decisions and ensuring that you maximize your Social Security income throughout retirement.

FAQs: What Are Some Strategies for Optimizing My Social Security Benefits?

What is Social Security optimization?

Social Security optimization refers to the process of strategically planning and making decisions about when and how to claim your Social Security benefits, to maximize your lifetime income. This involves considering factors such as retirement age, earnings history, life expectancy, taxation rules, and spousal or survivor’s benefits.

How do you get the $16,728 Social Security bonus?

The “$16,728 Social Security bonus” often mentioned in advertisements refers to a strategy called “file-and-suspend.” However, this strategy was effectively eliminated by changes made under the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. As a result, it is no longer possible for new filers to take advantage of this specific benefit-boosting technique.

What is the Social Security 5-year rule?

The “Social Security 5-year rule” typically refers to two different concepts: (1) The five-month waiting period for receiving disability benefits after being approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), or (2) The requirement that an individual must have earned at least 20 credits within the last ten years before becoming disabled in order to qualify for SSDI benefits.

How much will SSI checks be in 2023?

The exact amount of Supplemental Security Income (SSI) checks in 2023 cannot be determined yet since it depends on annual cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). COLAs are based on changes in inflation rates measured by the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W). Once these figures become available closer to 2023 year-end, the Social Security Administration will announce the new SSI payment amounts for 2023.


Optimizing your Social Security benefits requires a thorough understanding of the eligibility criteria, benefit amounts, spousal benefits, working while receiving benefits and taxation rules. By considering these factors and utilizing strategies such as delaying retirement credits; taking advantage of lump sum payments; and applying for disability insurance; or survivor’s benefits, you can maximize your Social Security income.

If you need help with financial planning, wealth management, or retirement planning to optimize your Social Security benefits then contact The Strategic Wealth Advisor today. Our specialists can offer custom-made plans to help you reach your financial objectives.

Let us help you maximize your social security benefits!

Content provided by Paradox Media.


This information is not intended to substitute for specific individualized tax, legal, or investment planning advice. Neither Royal Alliance Associates nor its representatives or employees provide legal or tax advice. If legal or tax advice or other expert assistance is required, the service of a currently practicing professional should be sought.

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