What Is Our Best Strategy?

Jan 12 2017 - 2:45pm

Larry, Thank you for writing such a helpful book and for your website.

Here is our situation: Wife with BD of Sept 1952. She was the lower earner. Husband with much higher income and BD of Sept 1956. Currently both are retired and do not expect to work again. Have sufficient income to get along comfortably. Wife comes from long lived family. Husband has chronic health issues and not likely to live past early 70"s, maybe less.

Should wife file for restricted benefits on her own account at FRA of 66?. Our understanding is that should the husband die before his FRA of 66 and 4mos she could then draw a widows pension based on his FRA. If he remains in good health and does not file until age 70, he would get a much larger SS benefit and that (if he predeceases her) her widows benefit would be based on the higher benefit amount Because he would not file for benefits until he is 70, she would not be eligible for spousal benefits until that time and would continue to draw on her own lower paying account.

Another option would be for him to begin drawing at FRA which would allow her to take spousal if it was higher than her own SS benefit.

Are we looking at this accurately? Do you feel one option is better? Does she need to specify that she is requesting only benefits on her record, not spousal?

Thank you.


Your best filing strategy depends largely on your and your husband's relative benefit rates. If your own benefit rate if you waited until age 70 to apply would not exceed 50% of your husband's full retirement age rate, then you would not want to wait past age 66 to file.

You wouldn't need to restrict your application to retirement benefits only. You won't be deemed to be filing for spousal benefits unless your husband is already drawing his benefits when you file.

You may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website. That will enable you to calculate your benefit rates, and help you determine the best filing strategy based on your expectations with regard to inflation, future earnings and lifespans.

Best, Jerry