Ask the CFP Professional® – Social Security PART 2: Withdrawal Strategies

By Michael Tow CFP®


The 79 million Baby Boomers in the United States have started to retire. Without that regular paycheck coming in every week, many boomers will hope to lessen that blow by applying for social security benefits. However knowing your options and withdrawal strategies regarding your benefits can have a major impact on your income during retirement. Here are some withdrawal strategies that may be right for you.

Work longer  

The most obvious way to increase your Social Security benefits is to work longer. Early retirement starts at 62, full retirement benefits at (65-67) and delayed retirement is at 70.  Every year you wait after full retirement, your benefit will increase approximately 6-8%. Also by working longer, you also have the ability to increase your benefit because the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses your top 35 years of earnings. So if your salary now is larger than earlier on in your career, it will replace that for your benefit calculation.

Claim now, claim more later

Married individuals are entitled to either a Social Security benefit based on their own earnings or to a spousal benefit equal to one-half of their spouse’s full retirement benefit. When you reach full retirement age, you can choose which benefit you want to take.

Under this strategy  if your spouse is already taking social security benefits, then when you reach full retirement age you would choose your spousal benefit (one half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit). You would then continue building up delayed retirement credits for your own benefit. Then at age 70, you would claim your maximum retirement benefit and stop receiving the spousal benefit. Hence the claim now, claim more later strategy.

Claim and suspend

In a situation where you earned much more than your spouse during your working years, your spouse will likely file for spousal benefits based on your earnings history rather than filing for benefits under their own history. However you need to be retired for your spouse to collect and in some cases you may not want to collect right away. In the “claim and suspend” strategy permits the lower income earner to collect spousal benefits when the higher-income spouse postpones benefit collection. To accomplish this strategy, you would file for your benefit when your spouse reaches full retirement age, then immediately suspend your benefits with the SSA and defer taking your benefit until age 70, at the point which you collect the maximum benefit.

Reverse your early filing no longer works

This used to be a big loophole in the system, where you could claim your early social security benefits at 62 and at age 70 you could reverse your decision; then pay back all the payments you receive and then start receiving your higher delayed benefits. In essence, you were getting an interest free loan from the government.

The SSA at the beginning of this year closed this loophole. Now you only have a small window (12 months) to reverse a decision after starting your Social Security retirement benefits. Only one reversal per lifetime is allowed, so be very cautious about withdrawing an application for benefits. Also anyone who received benefits based on your application must also consent in writing to the withdrawal.

Maximizing retirement income is very important to a retiree. Hopefully this will give you some additional insight on some of the potential Social Security withdrawal options that are available to you.




If you have a personal finance question or topic that you would like me to discuss in a future article please email me at


CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER ™, Michael Tow is President of New Boston Financial. He is a registered representative of, and offers securities and advisory services through Commonwealth Financial Network- a member firm of FINRA/SIPC and a Registered Investment Adviser. He is located at 58 Harvard Street in Brookline and can be reached at 617-734-4400 or


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