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Greatly Reduced Life Expectancy: How Should It Affect a Couple's Social Security Claiming Strategy?

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Suppose a male has been diagnosed with an illness that reduces his life expectancy to two years. How should this reality affect his decision and, if applicable, his wife's decision, for claiming Social Security benefits? If he is younger than Full Retirement Age (FRA) and qualifies for Social Security disability benefits then he should begin those benefits today. If he is 1) at least FRA or 2) does not qualify for disability benefits then their best strategy usually depends on whether the surviving spouse can grow her retirement benefits at 70 to exceed her survivor benefits. If the answer is yes, then he generally should begin his Social Security retirement benefits today, while she should delay her retirement benefits until age 70. If the answer is no then he should not begin his retirement benefits, while she should begin her retirement benefits today (if not already begun).
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2014

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