Ask Larry

Can My Wife Collect Half Of My Age 66 Rate Even If I Haven't Filed For My Benefits?

Hi Larry -

After receiving COMPLETELY CONTRADICTORY ADVICE during various calls to SSA, I am writing you in the hope you can provide some guidance:

Background:

I was born January 1952 and my loving wife was born Sept 1951. Neither of us has claimed SS. I am no longer working; my wife still works, earning approx $35K/annum. My estimated benefit @ 70 is $3900/mo and my wife's @ 70 is $1600.

Questions:

1. My wife was told that she could currently file to collect 50% of the benefit I would have received @ age 66 (without my having filed). Is that correct? Assuming yes, and given that she has gone on record with the SSA for a protected filing, is it correct that she can claim that benefit going back 6 months?

2. My wife was told that when she reaches 70, she could either continue to receive the amount determined in #1 above, or apply to receive her own benefit, whichever is higher. Is that correct?

3. My wife is then planning to switch over to taking a spousal benefit of 50% of my monthly amount which I will be entitled to in January (my full amount @ age 70 rather than @ 66), when I start collecting. I presume that is OK?

4. Lastly: can I currently make a claim for spousal benefits under my wife’s account for the 4 months before I turn 70 — even tho she is presumably @ the same time taking a spousal benefit under my account -- and then switch to my own benefit when I turn 70? What about if instead of continuing to take a spousal benefit after she turns 70, she instead switches over to receiving her own benefit @ that time?

Many thanks for any light you can shed. Unfortunately, the folks we have spoken to @ SSA are not as facile with the rules as one might hope....

Hi. No, your wife can't qualify for spousal benefits at least until you start drawing your benefits. The most that your wife could be paid is her own benefit rate or 50% of your primary insurance amount (PIA). A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA). Again, though, your wife can't qualify for spousal benefits at least until you start drawing your benefits, and even then she could only be paid up to the higher of her own amount or 50% of your PIA, not 50% of your age 70 rate.

Nor could you collect spousal benefits from your wife's account unless she is drawing her own benefits. Based on the benefit rates in your question, it sounds like your wife should probably have filed for her benefits at her full retirement age (FRA). You could have then collected spousal benefits starting at your FRA and then switched to drawing your own benefits at age 70. And, your wife could then file for an excess spousal benefit when you start drawing on your own record.

Unfortunately, a person can only claim benefits retroactively for up to 6 months from the date of their application. So, your wife could file for her own benefits now and claim 6 months of retroactive benefits, and you could then claim spousal benefits retroactively for the same 6 months. Then, when you reach age 70 you can switch to drawing your own benefits and your wife can apply for an additional partial spousal benefit if 50% of your PIA is higher than her own benefit rate.

Before filing, though, I would strongly suggest that you and your wife use our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to make sure that your figures are accurate and to make sure that the strategy I outlined above is in fact your best option.

Best, Jerry

Category: 
Posted: 
Jun 22 2021 - 4:07pm
MaxiFi software running on a laptop
Get What's Yours!
Discover tens of thousands in extra retirement dollars with Maximize My Social Security software!
  • Find your maximized strategy
  • Unlimited what-ifs
  • Step-by-Step filing instructions
  • Our software's lifetime-benefit increase for an illustrative couple earning $65K each and planning to take retirement benefits at 62.

    Results will differ based on your specific case and filing strategy.

Getting Started is Easy
Web-based software. Works on ALL browsers. No download.
$40 Annual Household License
$299 Annual Financial Advisor License