These Social Security enhancers are still available

After April 29, a special Social Security claiming strategy married people used called "file-and-suspend" will no longer be allowed. It allows one spouse who is age 66 or older to file for Social Security so that the other spouse can start collecting spousal benefits, but then the first spouse immediately suspends his or her own benefit and waits to activate it later, when it's worth more.

However, in the budget Congress passed last fall, it killed the file-and-suspend strategy, believing it to be a loophole that gives married couples an unfair boost in benefits.

But even after the deadline, file-and-suspend claiming strategies for other situations will still be allowed. This may be advantageous in certain situations. For example, let's say you claimed Social Security benefits at age 62, and at age 64 you regret this decision and would now rather stop receiving these benefits. Instead, you'd want defer your benefit, let it to grow by the 8 percent annual delayed retirement credit and reactivate it when it's worth more in later years (up to the maximum of age 7o).

Another claiming strategy, known as filing a "restricted application" for spousal benefits, will be allowed for a number of years into the future. This strategy benefits married couples and divorced spouses (who were married at least 10 years).

Here's how a restricted application works. When someone who has worked and is due their own Social Security benefit reaches age 66, they can elect to receive only spousal benefits, which is equal to at least 50 percent of the other spouse's benefit amount at their full retirement age. The idea is to get spousal benefits for up to four years (from age 66 to 70) and then refile to receive their own larger full retirement benefit (which has been growing at the 8 percent rate) beginning at age 70 and until death.

To be eligible to use the restricted application strategy, you had to have been age 62 by Jan. 1, 2016. And you can file the restricted application only if your spouse has also activated and is receiving their own Social Security benefits. For people who are eligible, this can result in as much lifetime income as the file-and-suspend strategy that expires after April 29.

For over 80 percent of married couples who expect to have a normal life expectancy, the optimal strategy is to for one spouse to claim retirement benefits and the other spouse to file a restricted application. For most of them, the loss of the much talked about file-and-suspend strategy won't be an issue.

  • Ray Martin

    View all articles by Ray Martin on CBS MoneyWatch»
    Ray Martin has been a practicing financial advisor since 1986, providing financial guidance and advice to individuals. He has appeared regularly as a contributor on the CBS Early Show, CBS NewsPath, as a columnist on CBS Moneywatch.com and on NBC-TV's morning newscast TODAY. He has also appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show and is the author of two books.