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Ask Larry: Can I Get Early Spousal Benefits And Delay Retirement Benefits?

Ask Larry: Can I Get Early Spousal Benefits And Delay Retirement Benefits?

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Social Security may be one of your largest assets. What and when you collect will make a huge difference to your lifetime benefits.

Today’s column addresses early filing, optimizing a filing strategy for a married couple, sequencing benefit filing dates, suspending due to continued earnings and whether it’s ever a smart idea to file early. Larry Kotlikoff is the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security, a Social Security benefits calculator referred to in this post.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

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Can I Get Early Spousal Benefits And Delay Retirement Benefits?

Hi Larry, My husband started drawing his Social Security at age 62 due to necessity. He is now 66. I am planning my retirement at age 62, in four years but want to wait to maximize my benefits and hold off taking it until I’m full retirement age (FRA) or age 70. Can I file for my spousal benefit on his record at 62 and leave my retirement benefit to grow? I made substantially more income than he did and would like to not have to use my 401K to bridge this gap. Thanks, Dorothy

Hi Dorothy, That was never an option for anyone. If you had been born before 1/2/1954, though, you would have been able to file for spousal benefits only at full retirement age while letting your own benefit grow until age 70. However, thanks to the new law passed by Congress last year, you no longer have the option of filing for spousal benefits at any age without also filing for benefits on your own record. So, assuming that your own full retirement age benefit amount (PIA) is more than 50% of your husband’s PIA, you won’t be eligible for spousal benefits. Best, Larry

What Is Our Best Filing Strategy?

Hi Larry, I will turn 66 in February of 2017. My husband will turn 66 in November of 2017. My husband is the primary breadwinner and has been very successful. I have earned much less (and my retirement benefit will definitely be less than my spousal benefit). We are both in excellent health at this time. Fortunately, we have enough means not to have to rely on Social Security to provide for our needs. We would like utilize the best strategy in applying for Social Security. What would you suggest? Thanks, Marianna

Hi Marianna, Assuming that your own benefit rate would be less than 50% of your husband’s full retirement age benefit amount (PIA) even if you waited until age 70 apply, it would likely be best for you to start drawing your own benefits at age 66. In your husband’s case, it would likely be best for him to wait until age 70 to…

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