What Is My Best Filing Strategy?

Dec 4 2016 - 10:00am

At the recommendation of a colleague, I purchased and am reading your book, Getting What's Yours Social Security. Thank you for writing this book.

I am 64, and I have been thinking of retiring at age 65 (September 2017). After reading your book, I am wondering if I should wait until my FRA (September 2018).

I am divorced after 24 years of marriage. My ex-husband is 60 and is still working. I have not remarried. I know that I meet the criteria to qualify for my ex's benefits.

What is my best strategy in collecting my own Social Security benefits and applying for his benefits? I will be getting a pension from my state's retirement system.

If I retire and collect only my benefits, could I at some later date apply for his benefits?

Thank you for your time.


Your best filing strategy may be to apply for divorced spousal benefits only when you reach full retirement age (FRA), and then switch to your own record at age 70. However, the best filing strategy largely depends on the relative rates of your own benefits versus those of your ex-husband. Also, your ex must be at least age 62 or be receiving disability benefits before you could become eligible for benefits on his record.

If you start your own benefits before becoming eligible for divorced spousal benefits, you could potentially become eligible for an excess divorced spousal benefit at a later date, but only if your ex's full retirement age rate is more than twice as much as your own.

BTW, you mention that you expect to receive a state retirement pension, which could be an issue if you did not pay Social Security taxes on your earnings with the state. If you did pay Social Security taxes on your earnings, your pension will not affect your Social Security benefits. However, if you didn't, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the WEP & GPO provisions: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf & https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf.

You may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website in order to be sure that you choose the best filing option.

Best, Jerry