Most often the spouse with the lower lifetime earnings should consider taking his or her Social Security benefits early. The benefits will provide income while the spouse with the higher lifetime earnings delays taking benefits for as long as possible, preferably to age seventy, to maximize benefits through delayed retirement credits.

This is a great strategy in terms of survivor benefits as well. If the higher earning spouse dies, then the survivor benefits for the lower earning spouse will be higher. If the lower earning spouse waits until full retirement age, the survivor benefits will be equal to 100 percent of the higher earning deceased spouse’s full retirement benefits. Chances are the survivor benefits will be greater than the retirement benefits of the lower earning spouse.