Today’s column addresses when spousal benefits can be available, remarriage and continued benefits, filing a restricted application for spousal benefits only, filing and suspending and whether a particular public pension will reduce Social Security benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.
See more Ask Larry answers here.
Is Social Security Correct That We Can’t Collect Spousal Benefits?
Hi Larry, My husband and I both were 66 in January 2019. I am retired and started collecting my Social Security retirement benefit in January. My husband is still employed and wants to continue working until 70 or longer. He wants to collet his maximum Social Security benefit at 70. We were told that since I started collecting my Social Security retirement benefit, my husband could get spousal benefits on my record at 50% of my retirement benefit at my full retirement age.
Getting spousal benefits on my record would not change the retirement benefit due to my husband at 70 on his record. I called Social Security and they said we could not collect spousal benefits because of the new law. I just wanted to make sure this is correct. Thanks, Tasha
Hi Tasha, That is not correct. Since you’re drawing your Social Security retirement benefits and since your husband has reached his full retirement age (FRA) of 66 and hasn’t yet applied for his own Social Security retirement benefits, he can file a restricted application for just spousal benefits only while allowing his own retirement benefit rate grow until 70. If a Social Security employee told you something different, then they’re mistaken.
Filing for spousal benefits only will have no adverse effect on your husband’s own Social Security retirement benefit rate at 70. Those benefits will still grow by 8% per year until he reaches 70 even if he’s drawing spousal benefits on your record. Note that some people conflate filing for and suspending a retirement benefit with filing a restricted application and think they need to file and suspend their own retirement benefit before filing a restricted application for spousal benefits only. This would be a terrible mistake. Make sure he simply delays filing for his retirement benefit and restricts his application to his spousal benefit only.
By the way, only people born before 1/2/1954 have the option of filing just for spousal benefits at FRA while allowing their own retirement benefit rate to grow until 70. Your husband can apply for spousal benefits up to six months after the month he reached FRA and still potentially claim benefits back to that month. So since you claimed your benefits in 1/2019 and since your husband reached FRA that month, it sounds like your husband would want to file as soon as possible and choose 1/2019 as his month of election to start spousal benefits. Best, Larry
If I Marry Before I Turn Age 66 Will I Lose My Social Security Benefit?
Hi Larry, I am 65 and my fiancee is 47. If I marry him before I turn 66 will I lose my SS benefit? Thanks, Vickie
Hi Vickie, Getting married would have no effect on your own Social Security retirement or disability benefits, nor does a marriage after age 60 affect widow’s or surviving divorced spousal benefits. However, if you’re receiving divorced spousal benefits on a living ex-spouse’s record or disabled adult child’s benefits on a parent’s record, then a remarriage would terminate your eligibility unless you meet one of the limited exceptions. Best, Larry
Is It Possible To Apply For Spousal Benefits And Delay Taking My Benefits Until 70?
Hi Larry, My husband started drawing his Social Security retirement benefits at 62 back in 2005. I will turn 67 in December 2019 and have been a high wage earner. Even though he’s receiving reduced retirement benefits, is it possible to apply for a Social Security spousal benefits on his record at my FRA and delay taking my benefit until 70? Best, June
Hi June, Yes, since you were born prior to 1/2/1954, you can file for spousal benefits as soon as possible. It sounds like you could have been drawing the spousal benefits since the month you reached your full retirement age (FRA) of 66, but now you can only claim those benefits retroactively for a maximum of six months. As long as you file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, your Social Security retirement benefit rate will continue to grow until you reach 70. Best, Larry
Is It Possible To File For And Suspend My Benefits So My Wife Can Draw On Me?
Hi Larry, I was born in 7/1953 and will earn well over the Social Security tax cap for the next eight years. My spouse was born in 2/1958. She worked 15 years as a teacher but has not worked in 20 years. I am postponing my taking my Social Security retirement benefit until 70 to maximize my monthly check. Is it still possible to file for my retirement benefit and suspend it so my wife can draw on my record? Thanks, Luke
Hi Luke, That’s not possible if you suspend now. If you file for and suspend your retirement benefits, any spousal benefits that your wife qualifies for from your record would also be suspended. You and your wife may want to use one of my company’s two tools — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to help maximize your lifetime Social Security benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry
Will My Social Security Benefit Be Reduced If I Receive A FERS Pension?
Hi Larry, I paid into Social Security and have my 40 quarters and also paid into FERS and am fully vested. Is my Social Security reduced because of double dipping? Thanks, Frederick
Hi Frederick, Your Social Security benefits would not be reduced due to receipt of a FERS (Federal Employee Retirement System) pension, because as you note, earnings covered under FERS are also subject to Social Security taxes. Social Security benefits are only subject to reduction under the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) if a person receives a pension based on their work that was exempt from Social Security taxes. Best, Larry
To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.