Do I Have My Facts Straight?

Dec 29 2018 - 12:57pm

Hi Larry (and Mike, John, Alex & Isaac),

Thank you for your excellent website, book & app.

I am 57 and my husband is 62 and 4 months. We both retired 6 years ago and have no earnings other than his public school teacher pension and some investment income. Our financial plan called for both of us to wait to file for SS until we reach age 70 so that we can receive our maximum monthly benefits. But given the fact that his 'spousal benefit' (50% of my FRA benefit) will be greater than his age 70 benefit based on his earnings, it seems he would maximize his lifetime SS benefits if he were to file at his full retirement age of 66 and 4 months and collect his (WEP reduced) FRA benefit of $335/month for 9 years - based on his earnings - until I file at age 70, at which point, if I understand correctly, his benefit would be increased to 50% of my FRA benefit, versus waiting to file for his maximum benefit at age 70 and collecting that for 4 years and 8 months until I file at age 70 at which time, same as in the previous scenario, he would begin receiving a benefit of 50% of my FRA benefit of about $1400/month (which we also assume would be reduced by the WEP calculation for him).

To summarize:

Option 1: hubby claims SS at his full retirement age of 66 & 4 months based on his earnings:
WEP reduced benefit of $335/month x 108 months = $36,180 from his age 66 and 4 months until my age 70 (9 years); when I claim SS & he starts getting 50% of my FRA benefit (~$1400/mo after deducting the WEP).

Option 2: hubby claims SS at 70 based on his earnings:
WEP reduced benefit of $433/mo x 64 months = $ 27,712 from his age 70 and my age 70 (5 years & 4 months); when I claim SS and he starts getting the same 50% of my FRA benefit as in Option 1.

Is there any compelling reason he should still wait to file at age 70 assuming his 'long term, eventual' benefit will be based on my FRA earnings and not his earnings or when he files (so long as he waits until his FRA to file)? Seems he earns more by taking his FRA benefit for a longer time vs. taking his age-70 benefit for a shorter time, since both options end up with him taking his spousal benefit of 50% of my FRA when I file at age 70. Do I have my facts straight?

Thank you.

Hi,

I answer the Social Security questions submitted to this Q & A forum, but I don't have access to the records of our software customers. Please resubmit your question using an online contact form available on the website's help menu so that your question can be answered by one of our experts who has access to your data.

What I can tell you, though, is that it sounds like you're not taking the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision into consideration (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). The GPO provision can result in Social Security spousal and widow(er) benefits being offset by 2/3rds of the amount of a person's government pension, and if your husband's Social Security retirement benefit rate is subject to a WEP (Windfall Elimination Provision) reduction it's also quite likely that his potential spousal and survivor benefits would be subject to GPO. Therefore, depending on the amount of your husband's teacher's pension, it sounds likely that any spousal or widower benefits for which he would otherwise qualify may be fully or partially offset due to the GPO provision.

Best, Jerry