US News & World Report helps potential retirees figure out their Social Security benefits with Emily Brandon’s article “Marriage and Social Security Benefits.” The article provides a good overview of the interplay between retirement benefits, spouse’s option to elect earnings records, survivor benefits, and different scenarios that demonstrate the best strategy to maximize benefits.
Some of Brandon’s key points are:
Delaying a claim for retirement benefits may increase the survivor’s benefit.
Single men, single women
Based on traditional life expectancies, men should claim early and women later.
Traditional married couple
If the husband is the bigger income producer, wives should claim early and husbands later (e.g., age 69 if possible).
To find the best strategy for you and your spouse, you need to evaluate the lower earner’s benefit and the age difference between the two of you.