How Should My Wife And I Apply For Benefits?

Apr 11 2020 - 9:57am

Hi Larry, or Team MMSC,

I have purchased, and already run dozens of retirement scenarios on your excellent MaxMySocSec software. I am so pleased to have found your software, and ancillary retirement strategy and filing information. I have also printed Form SSA-1-BK (03-2019) to manually prepare drafts as learning exercise, before completing the online application. Following is retirement scenario for my wife and I, our retirement plan, and then my questions:

Scenario
This year 2020, I will be 68 in May, my wife will be 67 in October; my wife was at FRA in Oct 2019 and I was at FRA in May 2018; we are both born before January 1, 1954; my wife plans to work full-time during 2020, and continue full-time or part-time as long as she chooses; and I receive some 1099 consulting fees. I was the bigger career earner, and I will receive greater benefits than my wife's, which will be about 2/3 of mine; and at the same there is greater opportunity for her benefits to increase than mine.

Optimized Plan (from countless MMSC runs)
I plan to file now for my SocSec benefits, to start in June, the month following my 68th birth; my wife plans to file for Spousal benefits, to start asap after (or simultaneously with) my filing, also file for retroactive benefits for the prior 6 months, and not file for her earnings based SocSec benefits until October 2023, her 70th birthday.

Questions:
1. I prepared draft SSA-1-BK manually, as exercise in preparation for filing online SSA-1-BK, and I will select option - "I want benefits beginning with June 2020" (one month after May 68th birthday). I think I am ok with proceeding with my SSA-1-BK filing, or are there any other forms that I have to file?

2. As to my wife, I have spent countless hours trying to figure out exactly what/how we are supposed to file for her Spousal benefits, with or after my filing, and later for her full SocSec benefits at age 70? I prepared draft SSA-1-BK for her manually, in anticipation of filing online SSA-1-BK - but there is no question, or nowhere to specifically indicate that it is "Restricted Application". I have read when filing Spousal, to be sure to note that it is "Restricted Application" in the Remarks section, and I have also read that Social Security agents often get it wrong, so what to do? My thought to write "Restricted Application" at the top of the first page of form SSA-1-BK right up with Print your name, and in more detail in the Remarks section. So what to do?

3. I also thought, maybe I am using the wrong form? So I printed out an SSA-2-BK (07-2018) and looked through that form, and then thought that does not work either? So that left me really confused - How EXACTLY do you file for Spousal benefits ("Restricted Application") in order to make sure that the filing is accepted as Spousal filing now, with delayed filing of my wife's Social Security benefits in 2023?

4. Also with respect to Spousal, to be eligible, the spouse whose benefits will be used to determine the amount of Spousal benefits (50% of my FRA benefits) "will need to have already claimed benefits". So do I have to have received my first check before we can even file for Spousal benefits for my wife? or does SocSec need to have confirmed that they have "accepted" my SocSec application before we file for Spousal for her? or can we file for her Spousal benefits, and retroactive 6 months, at the same time as I file for my SocSec benefits?

5. As to retroactive benefits, since her FRA 66th birthday was October 2019, and that will be more than six months since my first SocSec benefits will have started in June 2020, presumably her Spousal benefits starting either June or July (or August), this question is just to confirm that she would be eligible to receive 6 months retroactive? As such, how do we communicate to SocSec (on what forms, where on what forms), that in addition to date to start Spousal benefits, she wants to receive 6 months retroactive?

I greatly appreciate, and look forward to your response,

Regards, David

Hi David,

I'm glad to hear that you're happy with the software. However, the 'Ask Larry' site is not intended for answering questions from customers. I answer questions submitted to the 'Ask Larry' site, but I don't have access to customer data or software results. Questions from software customers should be submitted using an online contact form available in the help menu so that they can be answered by one of our experts with access to their data.

What I can tell you is that you and your wife can both apply at the same time, or she can apply after you apply. Your wife can't apply for spousal benefits before you apply for your benefits, nor can she be paid for any months prior to the month that you choose to start your benefits. Therefore, if you claim your benefits starting June 2020, that's the first month your wife could claim spousal benefits. She could not be paid retroactive spousal benefits unless you start your benefits retroactively.

Also, if you're referring to hardcopy or paper forms SSA-1 and SSA-2, use of those forms is not recommended as a means of applying for Social Security benefits. Social Security no longer uses paper forms for application purposes, so they are more or less obsolete. Instead, you and your wife should apply either online at https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/, or you can make an appointment to apply by phone by calling Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.

If your wife files online, there will be a question on her application that says: "If you are eligible for both a retirement benefit and a spouse's benefit, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefit?" Your wife would answer that question 'yes' in order to restrict her application to spousal benefits only.

If your wife files by phone or in person at a Social Security office she should tell the representative taking her claim what she wants to do, and then she should check her copy of the application to be sure that it contains a restrictive statement such as: "I wish to exclude retirement benefits from the scope of this application." (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200204020#d2).

Best, Jerry