Is There Any Reason Due To The Deemed Filing Rules That My Wife Should Wait Until I Reach FRA To Apply For Her Benefits?

Nov 6 2019 - 5:52pm

Hi Larry. I really look forward to your Ask Encore columns. You always seem to select pertinent questions and provide comprehensible answers. My wife is 21 months older than me. She will reach her full retirement age in June 2020. Her individual SS retirement benefit based on her own work history will be considerably smaller than her spousal benefit based on my work history. I reach my SS full retirement age in January 2023, but I don't plan on applying for my individual benefit (and thereby triggering her eligibility for a spousal benefit) until I reach age 70 in September 2026. We are thinking that our best option is for my wife to apply for her individual benefit in June 2020 when she reaches her full retirement age and then switch to her much larger spousal benefit when I apply for my individual benefit at age 70. Under the 2015 "deemed filing" rules, is there any reason that my wife should wait until I reach full retirement age in January 2023 before she applies for her individual benefit? Thank you, Larry!


Assuming that 50% of your primary insurance amount (PIA) will be higher than your wife's Social Security retirement benefit rate even if she waited until age 70 to file, she wouldn't want to wait past her full retirement age (FRA) to claim her benefits. A person's PIA is equal to the amount of their Social Security retirement benefit if they start drawing at FRA. There is nothing in the deemed filing rules that would give your wife any reason to wait until you reach FRA to apply for her benefits.

By the way, your wife can't actually switch to drawing spousal benefits when you apply for your benefits. What she can do at that time is apply for an excess spousal benefit, which will be calculated by subtracting her PIA from 50% of your PIA. The excess spousal benefit would then be paid in addition to her own benefit, which should give her a combined benefit amount equal to 50% of your PIA assuming that she doesn't claim her own benefits prior to FRA.

The plan you outlined in your question sounds fine, but you and your wife may still want to consider using our software ( to fully explore and compare all of your options in order to make sure that you choose the strategy most likely to maximize your benefits.

Best, Jerry