Shouldn't My Wife Be Getting Additional Benefits From My Record?

Jan 5 2017 - 11:45am

My wife turned 62 in Oct 2015 and filed for SS. I was 67 in Nov 2015 but decided to continue to work till 70. Last January (2016) I was told to file and suspend so my wife would get a portion of my SS benefits which was slightly more than her benefits at 62. She had already started getting her SS in Nov 2015. So we did that and her benefits never went up. She continued to get the same as she did on the first month . Someone at SS said if she wanted to get her benefits based on my full benefits, she would have had to send back all the months she had received. That didn't make any sense to me. I'm wondering if she can start collecting SS benefits off my Full Retirement Benefits? And also, what would happen if she was to wait till she turned 66 and then try to collect off of my FRB? Thanks, Tom

Hi Tom,

I don't know who told you to file and suspend your benefits, but it sounds like that may have been a mistake in your case. If your wife's own full retirement age benefit rate is more than half of yours, she wouldn't be eligible for spousal benefits now or in the future, unless your future earnings change the equation. And if that's the case, the fact that you filed and suspended your benefits is unlikely to be of any benefit to you.

Your wife's unreduced excess spousal benefit would be calculated as follows: 50% of your full retirement age benefit rate minus her full retirement age rate. For example, say Bill's full retirement age benefit rate is $2000, and his wife Barb's is $1000. Barb starts her benefits at 62 and receives a reduced rate of $750. Even if Bill waits until age 70 and receives a 32% higher benefit due to delayed retirement credits, which would increase his rate to $2640, Barb would not be eligible for a spousal benefit because 50% of Bill's full retirement age rate is not more than her full retirement age rate (i.e. $2000/2 - $1000 = $0).

Your best filing strategy may have been to apply for just spousal benefits on your wife's record, and then file on your own record at age 70. That may not be possible now, unless you are still within the time limit to withdraw the application you filed last year. The rule is that you can withdraw your application within 12 months of becoming entitled (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/withdrawal.html), so your ability to withdraw your application and instead apply just for spousal benefits probably depends on your month of entitlement.

I must point out that I don't have all of the facts of your case, so I can't tell you for sure whether or not it would be best for you to withdraw your application, even if you still can. However, if you are still within the timeframe to be able to withdraw your application and file a restricted application for spousal benefits instead, you may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website to determine whether or not that would be advantageous. Or, check with Social Security if you can find a trustworthy claims representative or technical expert. I should also point out that if you did withdraw the application that your filed on your own record and file a restricted application for spousal benefits instead, your entitlement to spousal benefits could begin no earlier than 6 months prior to the month that you file for the spousal benefits.

Best, Jerry