Should I File For Benefits On My Own Record Now?

Jan 23 2017 - 7:15am

Hi Larry,

My three questions concern whether my husband and I will be negatively impacted by employing the following strategies.

I am 64 years old and have always been a low income earner. My estimated benefit at age 66, which is not likely to rise, will be a little less than half of my husband’s benefit at his present age of 66. He just turned 66 and plans to wait until at least 68 to receive his.

I am thinking about filing for my benefit now, since (if I’m understanding this correctly) there doesn’t seem to be any point in waiting, and then taking the excess spousal benefit when I reach age 66, if he has filed for his by that time. (Otherwise, I will wait until he files.) Am I correct that this is the best strategy, considering my low earnings? Also, will filing on my record at 64 diminish my excess spousal benefit at 66? These are my main two questions.

But I do have one more question. I am wondering if it is possible for us to reverse the strategy. What I mean is, if I file now, can he take a spousal benefit off of my record, and then when he turns 68 or 70 and files, would his earnings record benefit remain the same, and I still receive the same excess spousal benefit off of his record? We want to maximize our returns, but without hurting our benefits.

Thank you very much.
Elaine

Hi Elaine,

If you start drawing your benefits before full retirement age, they'll be permanently reduced. If you subsequently become entitled to an excess spousal benefit, that benefit will be added to the reduced amount that you are receiving on your own record.

Both you and your husband were grandfathered under the new deeming law passed by Congress in 2015 (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/deemedfaq.html). Your best strategy is likely one of the following:
1) You file on your record now, and your husband files for spousal benefits only on your record. He would then switch to his own record at age 70, at which time you could apply for an excess spousal benefit; or,
2) Your husband files on his record at age 68 or 70, at which time you file for spousal benefits only, and then you switch to your own record at age 70.

You may want to strongly consider running the maximization software available on this website in order to determine which filing strategy is best for you and your husband.

Best, Jerry