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Social Security

My Wife and I Just Used the File-and-Suspend Tactic to Boost Our Social Security Benefits

If you’ll be 66 by April 30, you owe it to yourself to see if this disappearing claiming strategy makes sense for your family.

Photo by: Lise Metzger

"Aw shucks," or words to that effect, came out of my mouth last November 1 when I learned that Congress had voted to abolish the file-and-suspend Social Security claiming strategy we at Kiplinger had been recommending for years. Selfishly, my discouragement grew in part from the fact that I was just five months short of being able to put the strategy to good use for my family.

Buy Now: Kiplinger's Boomer's Guide to Social Security

My spirits brightened, though, when it turned out that a last-minute, dead-of-night change in the legislative language meant file-and-suspend would still be allowed for anyone who turned 66 in the six months after President Obama signed the law. Since about 10,000 Boomers turn 66 every day, that means about 1.8 million people would age into an opportunity that could boost their families' lifetime Social Security benefits by tens of thousands of dollars.

I am among those who slipped through the closing window.


I knew I didn't want to claim Social Security benefits when I hit 66 this March. I'm still working and I want to delay claiming as long as possible, until I’m 70, to collect those luscious 8%-a-year delayed retirement credits. But I also knew that file-and-suspend would let me open the door to spousal benefits for my wife, Anne.

She claimed her own benefit when she retired a few years back. As a modestly paid social worker and teacher's aide who took many years out of the workforce to raise our children, Anne's benefit is a modest $672 a month. But when I filed (and immediately suspended), Social Security quickly advised her to file for spousal benefits based on my record.

That move boosted her monthly benefit by $620, bringing it to $1,292, 50% of my age 66 benefit amount. Over the next four years, that will pour nearly $30,000 into her checking account (a bit more, really, thanks to cost-of-living adjustments in the future). And, those delayed-retirement credits will push my benefit from $2,584 to over $3,400 a month if I successfully hold to claiming until I’m 70.

That's the value of file-and-suspend to my family.


If you’ll be 66 by April 30, you owe it to yourself to see if this disappearing strategy makes sense for your family. To help, we've just completely updated our popular Boomer's Guide to Social Security for 2016. It includes a brand new, step-by-step guide that I created – based on my experience -- to show you exactly how to take advantage of the file-and-suspend strategy. The deadline for doing so is Friday, April 29, so time is running out. If you’re eligible, now’s the time to act.

Buy Now: Kiplinger's Boomer's Guide to Social Security