What Is My Best Filing Strategy?

Jan 30 2017 - 5:15am

I have been married 2 years. My husband retired early in 1986 receiving disability social security benefits which then at age 62 I believe they changed to regular social security. He is now almost 80 and I turn 62 this February 2017. His benefits are far higher than mine will be as I stayed home caring for a disabled elderly family member for many years.
With the new changes should I go ahead and apply early or is it better to wait? Will I qualify for spousal benefits at all if we are not married at least 10 years? We do not need my benefits for our financial needs right now but obviously I would like to maximize my eventual payments.
Thank you so much for this help!

Hi,

If your own benefit rate is substantially less than 50% of your husband's benefit rate, you would likely not want to wait past your full retirement age of 66 & 2 months to apply. You could file as early as age 62, but your benefit rate will be reduced by somewhere between 25% and 30.5% if you do. However, any reduction that you take would not carry over to your potential widow's rate (i.e. up to 100% of your husband's full rate) if your husband dies before you. Given that your husband is significantly older than you, and since you say that his benefit rate is much higher than your own, an argument could certainly be made for starting benefits early rather than later. That's a personal decision that you must make yourself, but the maximization software available on this website should be able to help you determine your best strategy.

By the way, you only have to be married for 1 year to be eligible for spousal benefits on a current spouse's record. The 10 year requirement applies to divorced spousal benefits.

Best, Jerry