You Can’t Solve Problems with Instant Coffee

If you’re old enough, you may remember a time when the only thing “instant” was instant coffee – magic crystals that, when mixed with hot water, turned into actual coffee.

Today, however, almost everything is “instant.”

There are 24-hour news channels so we don’t have to wait until tomorrow or the evening news broadcast for the details of today’s events. A political protest, earthquake, armed conflict, volcanic eruption, or major sporting event can occur almost anywhere in the world, and thanks to satellite communications, in an instant, the rest of the world not only knows about it, but people are watching streaming video of the event as it unfolds.

The moment a head of state, politician, or celebrity says or does something noteworthy (or more often, not so noteworthy), it’s instantly recorded, reported, and repeated in the media.

We are living in an age that caters to instant gratification…where “fast” is often not fast enough.

So what does the need for instant gratification have to do with solving problems?

Because of our “instant” programming, we expect instant solutions to problems. And that expectation often causes us to too quickly analyze problems and too quickly come up with solutions.

Instant analysis; instant solutions; yield instant results. But, the results don’t last, and the problems, or variations of them, resurface.


In the rush to solve problems, the “real” problems are not identified. Instead, the analyses and solutions are focused primarily on the “observed” problems – which are only manifestations of the real problems. Consequently, solutions are aimed at the “effect” rather than at the “cause.” And, when causal relationships are not fully explored, or perhaps ignored, the resulting solutions (like instant coffee that is only vaguely related to “real” brewed coffee) are only vaguely related to the “real” problems, and their outcomes are temporary, at best.

Learn to look at problems as the “effect” – the outcome of a system, process, or other chain of events. Then, before looking for solutions, identify what precipitated the outcome – which link in the chain may have given way. Finding the weak link will start you on a path toward a real solution.

Once you’ve identified the weak link, you must determine what caused it to be weak. Was it weak to begin with, or did something happen to weaken it? Then, when you’ve determined the underlying cause for the weakness…look for its underlying cause.

You may have to dig down a few layers to uncover the root cause. Only then can you begin to develop a lasting solution for the “real” problem.

You do this by asking emotionally driven “Pain” questions. The first pain someone shares is what we call the surface pain, it is usually intellectual in nature, and is never the “real” problem. If you ask them to further explain and clarify and dig deeper, you will get the emotional issues or challenges they are facing, and not only will they get more emotionally involved in wanting to make a change (hopefully to your company), but you will get to the root cause.

It will take more than an instant to fully analyze problems. You must be willing to invest the time and look below the surface for the real causes for the weak links. It will take longer, but the resulting solutions will last longer.

If you are interested in learning more about Ken Guest, the Ruby Group and Sandler Training and the programs or training offerings available, please contact Ken Guest at 330.421.7347.

sandler training

Building a Relationship

By Diane Helbig

Building relationships starts with knowing why you want to build them and who you want to build them with. What do you hope to gain from the relationship? Once you’ve identified these things, you can get started. While having a plan for meeting people is a good idea, the only plan you need to start the building process is to remember the 3 Bs. Too many people get caught up in the details and the worries and shift their focus. It’s not your job to convince or persuade. And pushing too hard doesn’t work. It’s simply good enough to be out there, be knowledgeable, and be giving. If you remember – just be – you will always be on track to build lasting relationships.


• It takes less effort to be yourself than it does to create a persona. Besides, people can see the mask a hundred miles away. Their guard will be up before you realize it. Why? Because your focus is off. It’s on you (or I should say, on your creation of you), not on them.

• The “you” who you really are is the one that will resonate with people. And aren’t you a great you?! You’re the best you there is! No one is a better you than you! So do yourself a favor and embrace your genuine self.


• Don’t focus on what you want to get. Focus on what you can give. “What goes around comes around.” “The smile you send out returns to you.” Sound familiar?
• Listen. Learn all you can about the person you are interacting with. Find out if there are ways you can help them; have a positive impact on their day.
• Giving can be direct or indirect. It may be something you can give or it may be the case that you can direct the person to someone else who has a solution for them.


• Know what you are talking about and state it simply. Don’t try to wow someone with your “vast knowledge.” Once you’ve listened and learned, you are in a better position to share from your knowledge base and experience. What you have to say will resonate with others.
• Sometimes that knowledge is having resources to offer – other people or companies who know and do things you don’t. This is the indirect giving.

Know what you know; own what you don’t know. Listen with interest and be respectful. Above all else, be yourself. The best relationships are those between people who share common interests, respect each other, and are genuine. Keep it simple and you’ll find it easy to build lasting relationships.

Copyright© 2014 Seize  is Day Coaching

Diane Helbig is an internationally recognized business and leadership development coach, author, speaker, and radio show host. As a certified, professional coach, president of Seize This Day Coaching, Diane helps businesses and organizations operate more constructively and profitably.

Diane is the author of Lemonade Stand Selling, and the host of Accelerate Your Business Growth Radio show. She is also a Service Provider for Constant Contact.

Diane is the marketing chair of WIN Cleveland as well as a COSE board member.

Contact Diane Helbig at (216) 534-2030

ramp your sales

Commit to Connect

By Diane Helbig

We are heading out of one year and into another. It’s a time when we evaluate how we’ve done, where we’ve been while deciding what we want to accomplish in the year to come.

As we look at our businesses, we should spend some time on where and how we are connecting with our prospects, clients, and colleagues. These methods include events, organizations, and online.

Where are you going? Are you attending networking events? Should you continue to attend the events you participated in this year or is there value in exploring other events? This decision should be based on who the other attendees are, what the programming is, and how well you’ve been able to connect with people at those events. If it isn’t serving your business, it’s probably time to move on.

What are you a member of? Does it elevate your business or your knowledge level? It’s always important to evaluate what you are getting out of the organizations you belong to. Sometimes an organization that was very valuable a year ago ceases to remain of value. That’s okay! And it’s more than okay to cancel your membership to open up time and money to join something else.

Are you a member of a networking group? Are you involved with a trade organization? Do you belong to a small business advocacy and support organization? How about your local chamber of commerce? Where should you belong in 2015? Now is the time to think through this area of your business and make decisions for the coming year.

Where do you participate online and how are you using those platforms to connect? LinkedIn is a great place to connect with other business professionals. You can then use those connections when you are doing your prospecting research. Just remember that you have to continue to build the relationships – on and off line – in order for them to work.

The other thing to consider is where your target audience is participating online. Then you want to make sure you are there sharing valuable information and connecting with them in a meaningful way.

So, take a look back and evaluate who, where, and what you connected with to make a difference in your business. Decide what to keep, what to enhance, and what to add. Commit to connect in ways that have a positive impact on your business and your growth. THIS is the commitment you make to your future. It’s worth it, and it’s important.

Copyright© 2014 Seize  is Day Coaching


NEW Gift Shop on the Block

Baskets Galore is proud to announce the opening of its NEW retail store and showroom located in Brunswick’s Town Center (1434 Town Center Blvd., C50, near Giant Eagle).

Since 2003, award-winning Baskets Galore has helped hundreds of clients and corporations with their gifting needs. With the new store, the company hopes to better serve consumers and business clients with last minute gifting needs that range from $5-$250.

“Our clients love giving uniquely designed gifts to build relationships and bring moments of happiness to others,” said Deborah Wasylko, Baskets Galore President and Founder. As a result, we created a well-stocked retail store with all occasion and corporate gifts in every budget so that our customers could purchase the perfect gift.”


Baskets Galore’s most popular gifts and amenities include:
• Grab n’ Go Gifts and Candy Boxes starting at $5
• Gifts to accommodate special Dietary Needs (gluten free, sugar
free, organic)
• Sympathy & Comfort Baskets with fruit, nuts, and chocolates
• Monogrammed Baby Gifts
• Personalized or Branded Ribbon

“We cannot wait to open our doors to our new and loyal clients in
NE Ohio,” Wasylko added. “As always, we ship nationwide and offer
volume discounts to our clients.”

Baskets Galore is an award-winning gift company based in Brunswick, OH. Deborah Wasylko, MBA is the President and Founder of Baskets Galore. She speaks at the National Gift Basket Convention and writes for the National Gift Magazine, Trends & Tips. To consult with Baskets Galore about your gifting needs, call 330-220-0088, visit their NEW location or go to

Selling Beliefs Re-Examined

By Ken Guest

Here are some beliefs about what it takes to cultivate a successful sales career beliefs on which many selling strategies are built but don’t hold up under close scrutiny.

Fallacy #1: Persistence and hard work pay off.

There seems to be a belief that the longer and harder you work, the more you are likely to accomplish. Certainly, persistence and hard work pay off in some endeavors. Digging a tunnel comes to mind. If you keep at it, digging straight and true through the darkness, you eventually see daylight and complete your goal. But selling shouldn’t feel like digging around in the darkness…hoping to eventually see some daylight, and if you’re lucky, complete a sale. A friend of mine told me about something her father taught her, what she now calls the Universal Rule of Holes…when you find yourself in one, quit digging. The adage “Work smart, not hard” may be a bit overused, but the message nonetheless rings true.

Fallacy #2: Salespeople must be motivated. Motivation is often regarded as a magic potion.

The thinking seems to be that if enough of it is sprinkled on you, you will be able to accomplish things you were not able to accomplish prior to the anointing. Getting hyped, energized, or excited doesn’t enable you to do something. At best, it encourages you to do it. The energy born of motivational meetings works great until the cord comes unplugged. Then, it takes something bigger and better to get that same level of energy back. Behavior drives your attitude, not the reverse as most might think. To stay “motivated”, even when you are struggling, if you plow through and do the “behaviors” you know you need to in order to be successful, it will drive the attitude and motivation you desire.

Fallacy #3: Salespeople must be skillful handling stalls and objections.

While a prospect may voice an objection or attempt to slow down the process, handling these situations should not be a normal part of business development. Prospects make buying decisions for their reasons, not your reasons. When you take the time to discover the prospect’s reasons and then present your product or service from a perspective that addresses those reasons and only those reasons many of the objections disappear. Stalls and objections tend to revolve around issues that should have been dealt with earlier. If you wait for the “close” to deal with objections, you’ve waited too long.

Perhaps it’s time to examine your own beliefs about the strategies and actions required to be successful. Do those beliefs truly support success? Are the beliefs built on facts? Is there evidence to support them? And, most importantly, are the facts or evidence relevant in today’s business arena? It’s true that nothing changes until you do. And in trying to grow a business, thinking that something shouldn’t change just because it’s “the way we’ve always done it” can be the kiss of business death.

Tell the Grim Reaper to go play someplace else. Embrace change, challenge your belief system, and welcome success!

If you are interested in learning more about Ken Guest, the Ruby Group and Sandler Training and the programs or training offerings available, please contact Ken Guest at 330.421.7347, or and be sure to mention seeing the article in The Medina County Women’s Journal for special discounts.

Sandler Training

Spring Clean Your Business

Spring Clean Your Business

By Diane Helbig
When the weather gets better we tend to Spring clean our homes: open the windows, clean inside and out, and fix whatever broke over the winter. Consider doing the same
thing for your business. It’s a great idea to periodically clear out the cobwebs and dust bunnies to increase your effectiveness and improve your results. Start by taking an inventory. Take a look at your clients, resources, and processes. Are they in alignment with your goals? Are they working well or need some tweaking? Let’s take a look.

Once a year it is helpful to take stock of your current and past clients. Engage in a deep dive assessment of them. How is your relationship? What work are you doing for them? What percentage of your total revenue are they providing to you? How well do you know them?

You may find that you have clients who are not serving you well. They may be taking up a lot of your time without a commensurate return. They may be difficult or demanding. There’s nothing wrong with firing a client or two. It frees you up to pursue the kinds of clients you want to be working with.

Another benefit of taking stock of your current client makeup is to see if there are any people or industries you should be going after. Maybe you got a new client last year and started doing work for them that really energizes you. That can be a great indicator of future prospects to seek.

If you want, you can also review past clients, those you aren’t working with anymore. It may be time to reach out to them to see if they have any current needs. Or it may point to other companies or people you could court.

This includes a lot of possibilities including vendors, referral partners, networking venues, and partners. Brush off the contracts or arrangements you have with your current vendors and take a good look at them. Take a look at your referral partnership and networking venues. Do they still serve your business? Are you getting the best deals and customer service from your current providers? Over time your business changes and therefore, your needs. You should stay on top of how your vendors are meeting the needs of your business as it evolves. It may be time to change where you are showing up or volunteering your time. It may also be the case that your referral arrangements have run their course, or maybe they never created quality referrals for you.

How are you operating your business on a daily basis? Is it effective? Are you maximizing your time and the time of your resources? Take a good look at the HOW of your business and make adjustments as needed. Remember, it’s easy to get into a routine and fail to realize when the routine stops being effective.

If things are not running smoothly or important tasks are not getting done, there are holes in your systems. Now is the time to fix them. In essence, this inventory allows you to clean up your current situation as well as plan for the future. And there’s no time like Spring! So, take some time, get out of your business, and take an inventory of where you are in relation to where you want to be. Make any adjustments you need to make and carry on.

Copyright© 2014 Seize  is Day Coaching

A Financial ✓Checklist You Can Handle

Presented by Jonathan S. Merckens, CFP®

With the beginning of 2014 upon us, you may have set goals and resolutions for the New Year. This financial checklist will help in attaining that commitment to improve your financial health. For many people, checking off items on a long list of to-dos brings a great sense of satisfaction as well as accomplishment. To help you keep moving toward your goals, we’ve created a month-by-month checklist of some key financial tasks to consider throughout the year.

• Establish a will or trust with an estate attorney. Although many people avoid thinking about estate planning, getting your affairs in order is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones. If you’ve already established a will or a trust, sit down and review the documents with your attorney, making any necessary changes.
•  Create a budget. Establishing a monthly plan for spending and saving is an excellent way to help keep your fi nances in check, whether you’re reevaluating your financial life or just trying to maintain good habits.
• Get ahead on your mortgage. If you can swing it, consider making a full extra payment toward your mortgage principal, which may help shorten the length of your loan.

• Review life, home, and auto insurance. It’s a good idea to check your coverage regularly. Have you experienced a major life event in the past year, such as a marriage or birth? Any significant changes in your personal life may require you to reevaluate your coverage.
• Revisit beneficiary designations for life insurance/retirement accounts. Do you need to add a new beneficiary or change a designation? Review your accounts to ensure that the correct people are listed.

• Check your investment portfolio allocations and current holdings. As your financial advisor, we monitor your investment portfolio and holdings regularly. Nonetheless, you should be aware of where and how your assets are invested.
• Explore loans, grants, and other sources of financial aid. There are many ways to finance college and postgraduate education expenses. If you have a college-bound child, it’s wise to get an early start researching the options available to you. The government-sponsored website is a great place to begin.

• Review your online social security statement. Check your benefits information and earning record, and update any outdated personal information, such as your address or phone number.

• Review 401(k), IRA, and SEP plans. No matter your retirement goals, keeping an eye on your balances and making regular contributions is essential. Depending on your circumstances, consider increasing the amount you contribute. (Retirement planning is equally important for self-employed individuals, who can take advantage of many of the same savings vehicles.) We encourage you to meet with us to discuss the investment allocations in your 401(k) or other plan.

• Check your credit report. Request your free credit report at and review it carefully for mistakes or suspicious charges, which could be a sign of identity theft.
• Shred old documents. Any financial documents that you no longer need, such as bank and investment statements, should be destroyed to ensure that they don’t fall into the wrong hands.

• Research 529 savings plans. Withdrawals from 529 plans are tax-free when used for qualified higher education expenses, making them an excellent way to save for a child or grandchild’s schooling.

• Review online accounts. Take a look at the usernames and passwords you currently use for your online accounts. If the passwords are too basic or if you’ve held onto them for too long, consider changing them as a security precaution.

•  Assess your overall investment goals and strategy. It’s wise to reevaluate your financial goals every year, especially if you’ve had any major changes or unexpected events in your
life. We can discuss your situation and help you adjust your financial plan accordingly.
• Revisit your budget. Look back at the plan you made in January and decide whether to adjust your budget or stick to your current strategy.

• Contact your CPA for year-end tax planning. Before tax season hits, it’s a good idea to speak with a certified accountant about changes in your personal circumstances, expiring tax breaks, and so on.
• Consider charitable giving. Donating to charity at year-end is a popular way to do good while reaping potential tax deductions. Charitable giving may be another item you wish to discuss with your CPA.

• Review the balance in your flexible spending account (FSA). FSAs require special attention so that you don’t lose unused funds at year-end. Under a new law, employers may allow employees to roll over $500 in FSA funds to the next year. Be sure to check the rules of your FSA plan and review your available balance.

• Consider refinancing high-interest debt. Consolidating your mortgage, credit card, or car loan payments can make your financial life more efficient (and possibly lower your overall interest rate).
• Pay off credit card balances every month. For the New Year, make a resolution to pay off your credit card balances every month, if you’re not doing so already.

Milestone events
In addition to the monthly tasks outlined here, keep these significant planning
milestones in mind as you near retirement age:
• Age 50: Consider making catch-up contributions to IRAs and qualified retirement plans.
• Age 55: You can take distributions from 401(k) plans without penalty if retired.
• Age 59½: You can take distributions from IRAs without penalty.
• Ages 62–70: You can apply for social security benefi ts.
• Age 65: You become eligible for Medicare.
• Age 70½: You must begin taking required minimum distributions from IRAs, 401(k)s, and 403(b)s.

Although this may seem like a lot of information to take in at once, glancing at the checklist each month and being ready for important retirement-related dates can greatly improve your sense of financial security, granting you peace of mind in 2014—and beyond.

This material has been provided for general informational purposes only and does not constitute either tax or legal advice. Although we go to great lengths to make sure our information is accurate and useful, we recommend you consult a tax preparer, professional tax advisor, or lawyer.

Jonathan S. Merckens is a financial planner practicing at 11925 Pearl Road, Suite #403 Strongsville, OH 44136. He o­ ers securities and advisory services as an Investment Adviser Representative of Commonwealth Financial Network®, Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Adviser.

Contact Jonathan at (440) 638-4757 or

© 2013 Commonwealth Financial Network®

Growth Connections

By Diane Helbig
In this environment of email, texting, and tweeting, it is easy to fall into a digital hole. We convince ourselves that digital communication is the best, most preferred communication channel. Unfortunately, it isn’t. These tools can be used to enhance communication, but should not replace person-to-person connecting, a phone call, or a meeting.

The Internet provides us with an opportunity to reach out to people who we may not meet otherwise. It also gives us a platform to position ourselves as experts in our fields, to provide valuable information to the people looking for it.

However, we still need to build relationships with people. We still need to take time out of our day to talk with them, learn from them, get to know them. Everyone is in such a hurry and thinks the Internet is going to allow them to short circuit the process. Forget it!

People still buy from people they trust. And the only way they are going to learn to trust you is when they can see the whites of your eyes. And you can see theirs. How do you know you want to do business with them if you haven’t gotten to know them? They could be awful. And their online persona wouldn’t show you that.

We must maintain the human connection if we are going to build sustainable, thriving businesses. And the relationships take time. You can’t shortcut or jump ahead. You have to walk down that road.

My suggestion is that you embrace the process; enjoy the ride. It’s always fun to meet new people and find out what makes them tick. What do they struggle with? What do they enjoy? Where do you have synergy and where can you help them? What is unique about them?

Here are some tips for using digital tools to grow your business:

  1. Connect with someone with the intention of getting to know them better
  2. Suggest a phone call or meeting with people you are connected to
  3. Discover how you can help them without selling your product or service

When you get to know your connections and are focused on helping them, you will find that you build great relationships with the right people. It is those relationships that will have a positive impact on your company’s growth.

The exact opposite is also true. If you try to sell to a new connection, you will find that they will leave you, never refer you, and may even bad mouth you. It is really hard to work around that truth. And the damage can be extensive. So, settle in and take the time to build quality relationships that help you grow your business.

 Contact Diane at 216.534.2030 or

Diane Helbig is an internationally recognized business and leadership development coach, author, speaker, and radio show host. As a certified, professional coach, president of Seize This Day Coaching, Diane helps businesses and organizations operate more constructively and profitably.

Diane is the author of Lemonade Stand Selling, and the host of Accelerate Your Business Growth Radio show. She is also a Service Provider for Constant Contact.

Diane is the chairperson of the Lakewood Chamber of Commerce as well as a COSE board member.

Copyright© 2014 Seize This Day Coaching


How to Become a Speaker at Events

By DeLores Pressley
It is not as difficult as you might think to become a speaker at various events, though it does take some knowledge, patience, and effort. The speaking industry has grown quite a bit over the past decade and with the internet right at the fingertips, it is much easier today to promote yourself as a speaker than it was pre-internet days.

To become a speaker, there are several things to keep in mind as you work toward the promotion of yourself.

Know your topic inside and out. The first thing you ought to do before venturing out to speak at events is become an expert in whatever your topic is. You certainly don’t have to be at the top of your field, but you should have a good bit of knowledge and personal experience in the subject you are seeking to share with other people. If marketing is your passion, become a marketing expert and have some proof to back it up. If you can give valuable information to help small business owners take their business to the next level, go ahead and share your expertise.

Speak for free. In the beginning of your speaking career, go ahead and offer to speak for free at different venues. You can ask local business groups, community colleges, or conferences if they will allow you to share your topic of interest for free. This is a great way to get started and see if you really enjoy the experience. If you can audio or video tape your talk, go ahead and do so as you can use the track for the promotion of your speaking services.

Design a professional website. If you create a professional website for your speaking profession, you are more apt to get some speaking gigs. Be sure to accentuate your strengths, have excellent content, let readers know about your expertise and experience, and if you can add a video of yourself speaking at an event, do so. Potential clients want to see you in action before committing to having you speak at their event, so go ahead and post one or several videos on your website.

Find suitable speaking events or conferences. Do some research online to see what your options are regarding speaking venues. Search conferences that appeal to you. Network with your business friends and acquaintances via social media and in the community. Keep an ongoing list of venues that interest you and contact them one by one.

Go to events and conferences. In order to become familiar with events and conferences, go to as many as you can. Introduce yourself to others and let them know that you are a speaker as well. Network while you are at the events and if there are social networking communities tied to the event, feel free to join. As a speaker, you must get in the habit of promoting yourself and a great place to do so is among other people at key events.

Create a YouTube channel. If you have skills or expertise to share, go ahead and share some of your information via a YouTube channel. This is a great way to get yourself known as a professional and gain some exposure. Some event planners may come across your videos and seek to hire you to speak at their next event. YouTube is a wonderful way to market yourself. My YouTube channel is

Sell yourself. You will be up against other speakers so be sure that you sell yourself well. Be detailed about your experience, success, projects, and so on. If you have excellent references from key successful people, go ahead and accentuate that. Let event planners know why you would be the best fit for the next speaking engagement. Sell yourself as one of the best speakers in your niche and do your best to live up to that claim.

Becoming a speaker at events is a wonderful goal and you can make it a reality if you are willing to follow these tips and be patient and persistent. Sometimes you may be turned down and know that this is quite normal. Do not become discouraged when this happens, as it happens to everyone sometimes. The key is to let it go and keep trying. Building your speaking business takes time, so enjoy the journey, have some fun with it, and celebrate every step!

DeLores Pressley is an International Keynote Speaker and Confidence Coach, and the CEO of DeLores Pressley Worldwide and Founder of the UP Woman Nation. To book her as a speaker or coach, contact her office at 330.649.9809 or via email at or visit her site at

The “Magic Age”: What You Need to Know About Social Security Claiming Strategies

Presented by Jonathan S Merckens, CFP ®

You may have heard that choosing the right social security claiming strategy can help you and your spouse maximize your benefits. But which strategy is best? What’s the appropriate age to claim? What about spousal benefits? If you’re wondering which path to take, these social security basics may help you get started.

Choosing the Right Age to Claim
Retirees can apply for social security anytime between ages 62 and 70. Claiming as early as age 62, however, can permanently reduce not only your benefits but your spouse’s survivor benefits. On the flip side, delaying until age 70 rewards the worker with the maximum benefit and locks in the highest possible benefit for a widow or widower. Of course, retirees who wait until age 70 to claim benefits may need to bridge the income gap by drawing down their retirement portfolio. So, what is the “magic age” to claim?

Until you or your spouse reaches your full retirement age (FRA), you won’t be able to take full advantage of social security claiming strategies. For many of today’s retirees (those born between 1943 and 1955), FRA is 66. If you fall into this category and claim your
benefits prior to age 66, you will automatically apply for both your worker benefit and any additional benefits you qualify for as a spouse, assuming your spouse is already receiving benefits. If you wait until your FRA to claim, however, you can elect to take one benefit or the other, switching them at a later date if advantageous. In addition, once you reach your FRA, social security benefits are no longer offset by earned income from work.

It’s worth noting that the magic age doesn’t have the same effect on spousal survivor benefits. A surviving spouse can claim either his or her own benefit or the survivor benefit independently (even prior to FRA), then switch to the other benefit after FRA. In other words, by claiming prior to FRA, the spouse isn’t deemed to have claimed both the survivor benefit and his or her own worker benefit.

Making the Most of Spousal Benefits
It’s a common assumption that, if both spouses delay claiming social security until age 70, they can maximize their monthly benefits. That’s not always the case, however. To help ensure that you don’t leave money on the table, here are a few strategies to consider. (Note that, for a couple to take advantage of these strategies, at least one spouse must have reached FRA.)

• Claim the spousal benefit when one spouse reaches FRA. You can only earn delayed retirement credits on your own worker benefit, not by delaying the spousal benefit. If your spousal benefit will always be greater than your own benefit, it makes sense for you to take advantage of the spousal benefit sooner rather than later.

• “Claim now and claim more later.” With this popular strategy, you apply for social security at FRA but suspend payments until age 70. This allows your spouse to submit a restricted application for spousal benefits if he or she has also reached the magic age. In the meantime, both of you will continue to earn delayed retirement credits on your own worker benefits. Then, when each of you reaches ages 70, you can apply for your maximized benefits. (Keep in mind that only one spouse can file and suspend so that the other can claim spousal benefits; it’s not possible for both spouses to file and suspend.)

• Claim the lower benefits first. Cash flow needs may require you to turn to social security before both spouses reach FRA. But, if your budget permits, there’s still an opportunity to enhance your overall social security strategy. Here’s how it works: The spouse with the lower benefit claims as early as age 62; meanwhile, the other spouse waits until his or her FRA and files a restricted application for spousal benefits, which will amount to half of the lower-earning spouse’s full retirement benefit. Then, at age 70, the one receiving spousal benefits switches to his or her own worker benefit, which has accumulated delayed retirement credits. Once the spouse with the higher earning history claims his or her retirement benefit, the other spouse can switch to the spousal benefit if it’s higher.

Beyond the Basics
It’s important to note that many social security claiming strategies seek to provide a larger cumulative benefit over a couple’s lifetime rather than generating a greater benefit today. If you and your spouse have shortened life expectancies, a delayed claim may shortchange you, possibly lowering your current standard of living or depleting retirement assets that could pass to your heirs.

Clearly, when it comes to determining the optimum social security claiming strategy, numerous variables are at play. Your financial adviser can help you evaluate the benefits of different strategies and find the option best suited to you and your unique situation.