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Wondering when you should start receiving Social Security benefits? If you are married or divorced, you may be eligible for spousal benefits that can make the decision easier.

The AARP offers these strategies for using spousal benefits to your advantage:

For couples with two incomes: You may be eligible to file for a spousal benefit only, allowing your own benefit to continue growing. To do this, you must have reached your full retirement age and your spouse must be receiving his or her own benefits. You can receive a monthly spousal benefit equal to one-half of your spouse’s full retirement amount, even if your spouse began receiving benefits early. At age 70, you can switch to your own benefit—which will have reached its maximum amount, thanks to delayed retirement credits.

For couples with one income: When a working spouse reaches full retirement age, you can take advantage of Social Security’s “claim and suspend” rule.

When the working spouse reaches full retirement age, he or she applies for benefits. This allows the nonworking spouse to file for a spousal benefit. Then the working spouse can suspend his or her own benefit, allowing it to continue growing until a later date. The nonworking spouse will continue to receive a spousal benefit.

* For divorced singles: You are eligible for retirement benefits on your ex-spouse’s record if:

* Your marriage lasted at least 10 years;
* You have not remarried;
* You and your ex are at least age 62; and
* Your own benefit is less than the spousal benefit you could receive.

If you have been divorced at least two years, you can receive spousal benefits even if your ex-spouse has not yet applied for his or her own benefits. For those eligible for their own benefits but not yet at full retirement age, Social Security pays either the spousal benefit or the individual’s own benefit—whichever is higher.

Once you reach full retirement age, you can choose to file only for a spousal benefit, and allow your own benefit to continue growing until a later date.

For more information about Social Security benefits, visit the Social Security Administration’s Retirement Planner at http://ssa.gov/planners/retire/.

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