Can My Husband Receive Spousal Benefits Even If He's Filed And Suspended On His Own Record?

Dec 5 2016 - 10:45am

My husband is at Full Retirement Age of 66 and is currently working and filed and suspended in April 2016 before the deadline. HIs social security benefits statement estimates his social security benefits at $24,000. He plans to retire and stop working in April, 2017. Can he claim restrict to spousal in April 2017 and receive half of my social security benefits and wait till 70 to switch over to receive his social security benefits? My social security benefits statement estimates my social security at $16,000.
I am 63 and currently working but expect to be laid off sometime in the first half of 2017. Can I claim spousal benefits at a reduced rate in June of 2017 when I turn 64? Or should I take my social security at 64 at a reduced rate? Or should I wait till 66? Can we both apply in April 2017 for our benefits or do I need to claim my benefit first before my husband claims the restrict to spousal benefit?

Hi,

That's a lot of questions. It sounds like filing and suspending may not have been the best option in your husband's case. Once you file on your own record, that becomes your primary benefit for life, regardless of whether or not you voluntarily suspend your benefits. So, after filing on your own record, you can't become eligible for a full spousal benefit. Based on the estimates stated in your question, your husband's own benefit rate is much more than half of yours, so he would not be eligible for spousal benefits as things stand.

The main advantage to the file and suspend strategy prior to April 30th 2016 was that it then permitted a spouse to receive spousal benefits on the worker's record even while the benefits are suspended. Since your benefit rate is more than one-half of your husband's, the only way that you would benefit from that strategy is if your husband wanted to wait until age 70 to start drawing, and you wait until age 66 to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. You could then allow your own benefit rate to grow until age 70.

However, since he filed less than 12 months ago, your husband should still have the option to withdraw his application (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html). That would permit him to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only on your record, then re-apply on his own record at age 70. The only catch is that you would have to be drawing your benefits in order for him to qualify for spousal benefits. And, if you file prior to full retirement age (FRA), your benefit rate will be permanently reduced. Also, if you're still working, the Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html) could limit the amount of benefits that you and your husband could receive on your account until you reach FRA.

As for your other questions, no you couldn't get reduced spousal benefits at age 64 if your own benefit rate is more than half of your husband's. If you apply for either retirement or spousal benefits prior to FRA, you're deemed to have filed for both benefits, and you only receive essentially the higher of the two.

You could start reduced benefits on your own record at age 64, which would then permit your husband to file a restricted application for spousal benefits on your record, but only if he withdraws the application that he filed on his own record.

Before making any final decisions, you may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website. It is programmed to allow you to run various what-if scenarios, which should enable you and your husband to sort out your best filing strategy.

Best, Jerry