Maximize Married Social Security Benefits: Part 2

Question:  My husband and I are both 62. If I file and suspend when I turn 66, can my spouse, who is 6 months younger can me, draw spousal benefits then or does he have to wait 6 months until he turns 66?

Answer:  Your spouse must wait until age 66, his FRA (Full Retirement Age), before he can file a restricted claim for spousal benefits.

Question:  If I file and suspend at age 66 and my spouse files a restricted claim for spousal benefits can I also file a restricted claim on his benefits so we are both drawing half of each other’s benefits until we are 70 and then draw our own?

Answer:  No. It doesn’t work that way.

Question:  After 70, if one of us dies, does the surviving spouse only collect the highest amount of one of our benefits or some combination of both?

Answer:  The higher amount only.  That’s why it is important to ensure the maximum survivor benefit by having the higher earner delay benefits until age 70.

Question:  My husband turns 62 in January 2014. He is currently working and plans to work until at least age 70. Can he apply for Social Security and suspend his benefits but claim spousal benefits for me now?  I will be 60 in January? 

Answer: No.  He has to reach FRA (age 66 in his case) before he can file and suspend and you have to reach FRA before you can file a restricted claim for spousal benefits.

Question: I have heard that an ex-wife is able to receive her ex-husband's Social Security benefits if they were married for over 10 years.  Ex-wife is still working and plans on doing so until she reaches 70.  Can ex-wife collect divorced spouse benefits until she retires at age 70 and then switch to her own – without reducing her own retirement benefits? 

Answers: Yes.  Ex-wife should wait until she reaches FRA to begin collecting divorced spouse benefits in order to get the full 50% of the ex-husband’s primary insurance amount. When ex-wife reaches age 70, she should switch to her own benefit if it is higher. 

Question:  I started collecting Social Security benefits when I was 66 and my wife started when she was 62.  My friends tell me that my wife’s benefit should be 50% of my Social Security benefit.  Is this true? 

Answer:  Your wife started collecting benefits before her FRA (age 66).  Therefore she is receiving reduced benefits consisting of her own reduced benefit plus a reduced spousal add-on benefit.  If she had waited until she was 66, she would be entitled to collect 50% of your benefit.

Question:  I am 66 and interested in filing a restricted claim for spousal benefits.  If I do that would I have to wait until age 70 to file for my own benefits or could I do it earlier if I choose to do that?

Answers:  When you file, make sure the Social Security Administration knows you are restricting your claim to spousal benefits and not claiming your own benefits. You can switch to your own benefits before age 70 but you will be giving up some of your delayed retirement credits.

Kenneth B. Petersen CFP®, EA, MBA, AIFA® is an investment manager and Principal of Monterey Private Wealth, Inc., a wealth management firm in Monterey.