Strategies for Claiming Social Security Benefits

Research Articles and Fact Sheets

Munnell, Alicia H. and Mauricio Soto. 2005. “Why Do Women Claim Social Security Benefits So Early?” Center for Retirement Research, 35 (October). Available at:

Shuart, Amy, David Weaver, and Kevin Whitman. 2010. “Widowed Before Retirement: Social Security Benefit Claiming Strategies.” Journal of Financial Planning 23, 4: 45-53.
Click to see an abstract and find out if you have access to this article through your local library.

Social Security Administration. Windfall Elimination Provision, SSA Publication No. 05-10045. Available at or 1-800-772-1213.

Social Security Administration.  Government Pension Offset, SSA Publication No. 05-10007. Available at or 1-800-772-1213.

Social Security Administration.  Benefits for Children, SSA Publication No. 05-10085. Available at or 1-800-772-1213.

Why take voluntary distributions from retirement accounts & delay Social Security?

Lance Ritchlin, Why 401k And Social Security Coordination Is Critically Important,, (This article is targeted at financial advisers, but you may still find some of the information helpful.)

James I. Mahaney and Peter C. Carlson, Rethinking Social Security Claiming in a 401(k) World, Pension Research Council Working Paper, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Available at (This paper was written before the 2016 changes in Social Security claiming strategies and therefore contains some dated information. However, it is still the most thorough discussion on this topic that I am aware of.)

Benefit Calculators on the Social Security Website
Commercial Social Security planning tools for evaluating different claiming strategies

Search online for “Social Security calculators.” Try more than one, to see if they agree on which claiming strategy will work best in your situation. Check that the tools you use take all the factors of your situation into consideration. For example, if you have a pension from a job where you did not pay into Social Security, look for a calculator that asks for information about that pension. If you will have a dependent child at the time you file for Social Security, look for a calculator that asks if you have dependents who may qualify for a benefit based on your work record.

One calculator that I have seen recommended frequently is ($40 fee/year). Another is , which costs $19.95 and up, depending on the plan you select. Both of these calculators are thorough and can handle special situations.


New Rules as of 2016: File & Suspend and filing a Restricted Application

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 ended the File & Suspend strategy except for those who have already implemented the strategy, or who did so by April 29, 2016 – which means the person who files and suspends was born on or before April 30, 1950. File and suspend involves one spouse – usually the older or higher earner – filing for benefits but suspending and receiving no payments, in order to let those benefits increase from delayed retirement credits, but still allowing a younger or lower earning spouse to collect spousal benefits.

Filing a restricted application will still be available at Full Retirement Age ONLY for those born no later than January 1, 1954. Under this strategy, the filer can choose to receive only spousal benefits, and delay their own worker benefits, which will accrue delayed retirement credits until they are claimed later.

These changes do NOT impact widows and widowers; they may still file for one benefit (worker or survivor) and later switch to the other.

To get all the details, I suggest getting a cup of coffee or hot chocolate and reading one or more of these authoritative discussions.

Changes in Social Security Claiming Rules: Update for Financial Planners, a post on The SS Choices blog,  spells out who will and will not be affected. It then goes on to explain the details for those who will be impacted. Note: This is written by a team that also sells software to compare Social Security claiming strategies

Michael Kitces, author of the Nerd’s Eye View blog has two excellent posts:

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