How Do I Go About Switching To My Own Benefits?

Jun 19 2020 - 11:58am

Hi Larry,
Since all offices are closed I haven't been able to find an answer on this. My wife and I were born in 1952. We started taking my wife's SS in April of 2018. I filed an suspended in September 2018 and started taking my spousal benefit from her record then. I would like to switch to my benefit at 68 in September this year, and then switch my wife to her spousal benefit at the same time. Do I fill out a new online application for both of us to start this or do I need to meet or talk with a SS employee? What is the easiest way to accomplish this with this virus going on. Your help is appreciated. Thanks, Randy

Hi Randy,

First off I need to clarify that you apparently didn't file for and suspend your own benefits in 2018, because if you did you wouldn't be able to collect spousal benefits (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/claiming.html). What you must have done instead is file an application for spousal benefits only, on which you excluded you own Social Security retirement benefits from the scope of the application. Therefore, you'll need to file a separate application when you decide to switch to drawing your own benefits.

Your wife can't switch from drawing her own benefits to just drawing spousal benefits, but she could file for an excess spousal benefit when you apply for your benefits. Her excess spousal rate would be calculated by subtracting her primary insurance amount (PIA) from 50% of your PIA, and if that's a positive amount it would then be paid in addition to her own benefit. A person's PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing at full retirement age (FRA). So, if your PIA is more than twice as much as your wife's PIA and if she didn't start drawing her own benefits prior to FRA, then when you start drawing your benefits your wife will be eligible for a combined benefit rate equal to 50% of your PIA.

Your wife can apply for spousal benefits at the same time that you file for your own benefits, or she could apply anytime after that. You may be able to file for your benefits online at Social Security's website (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/), but unless Social Security has recently expanded their online capabilities your wife couldn't apply for spousal benefits online since she's already drawing her own benefits. So, if Social Security offices are closed to the public when your wife is ready to apply for spousal benefits she'll likely need to call Social Security to initiate the application process.

However, before switching to your own benefits you may want to give some consideration to waiting until age 70 to make the switch. Waiting until age 70 would provide you with your highest possible monthly benefit rate for the rest of your life, and it could also provide your wife with her highest possible survivor benefit rate if you die before her. You should strongly consider using our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to fully compare all of your options in order to determine the filing strategy that will most likely maximize your benefits.

Best, Jerry