Should I Apply For Social Security If I Work For The Railroad?

Mar 16 2017 - 8:30am

I am 65, a railroader for 15 years, not retiring for a while(?). Wife is 62. Should I apply for SSA in order to get spousal benefits for her? Do I have to accept my SSA benefits in order to do this? Is there a down side? Does it alter my plan to retire in 6-7 years from railroad with RRT1, RRT2, and a company pension? I know I would give up the SSA at that point.

Hi,

Neither you or your wife would be able to receive Social Security (SS) benefits prior to your full retirement age if your earnings are too high (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html). You could, however, start drawing Social Security at age 66 (or earlier if your earnings permit) and your wife could file for reduced spousal benefits on your record at that time.

When you eventually file for Railroad Retirement (RR), you wouldn't stop receiving SS benefits. Instead, you would receive the higher of a) your SS benefit rate, or b) your RR Tier 1 rate, plus any Tier 2 RR benefits to which you are entitled. The same would apply to your wife.

I don't really know of any downside to this strategy, other than the fact that your wife would be taking a reduced SS benefit rate, but my only area of expertise is Social Security, not RR benefits. You may want to explore your SS options by using the maximization software available on this website, although it is not programmed to handle RR benefits.

Best, Jerry