A Question About Spousal Benefits

Q: I reach age 66 in August. A Social Security representative contacted me about my online retirement application. She said my wife could collect half of my amount when she reaches age 66 later this year and that she could later collect her own retirement at age 70. Is this correct?

A: As a general answer, this could be possible. Next time, consider asking the representative working with you for more details if unsure of an answer.

Social Security representatives review online applications and contact you if there is a question about it.

Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 legislation, enacted in November 2015 to close unintended loopholes, changed how benefits could be paid to a person eligible for their own Social Security retirement and as a spouse.

Details are in the Retirement Planner portion of the SSA website but, in short, people reaching age 62 on or after January 2, 2016, will be required or “deemed” to file for both the retirement and spousal benefit at the same time.

A person reaching age 62 before January 2, 2016, can file for either a spouse’s benefit or their own retirement at full retirement age (FRA) without having to file for the other. FRA is 66 for people born in 1943 – 1954. Delayed retirement credits (DRC) increase your own retirement amount for months you wait past FRA before starting.

See the Deemed Filing information in the Retirement Planner. This FAQ is from there. 

“FAQ #4

Q: Can I restrict my application for benefits and apply only for spouse’s benefits and delay filing for my own retirement benefit in order to earn delayed retirement credits? 

A: If you turn 62 before January 2, 2016, deemed filing rules will not apply if you file at full retirement age or later. This means that you may file for either your spouse’s benefit or your retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other. In your case, you may also restrict your application to apply only for spouse’s benefits and delay filing for your own retirement in order to earn delayed retirement credits. However, if you turn age 62 on or after January 2, 2016, you are required or “deemed” to file for both your own retirement and for any benefits you are due as a spouse, no matter what age you are.”

More about Social Security benefits to family members is in the Retirement Planner. A potential spousal benefit is based on your full retirement age amount with the maximum being one-half of your FRA amount. This could be different from one-half of the benefit you receive. Estimate your FRA amount in the Retirement Planner.

There is no one best time to start benefits. For example, delaying the start of a benefit can increase future benefits but delay also means that benefits payable now are not being received.

Ability to do something does not automatically mean it is your best option. Some topics to consider are in the SSA publication, When to Start Receiving Retirement Benefits. Based on your other income, needs and plans, what is best for the two of you?