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Today’s column addresses the amount of spousal benefits, who can receive spousal benefits, when to collect spousal benefits, getting credit for military service and potentially filing for retirement benefits at 62. 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.
Ask Larry about Social Security:
How Much Will My Wife’s Social Security Spousal Benefit Be?
Hi Larry, Both my wife and I were born in the fall of 1953. I started collecting my retirement benefit at 62. My earning were a little more than twice my wife’s. Does that fact that I started collecting early affect her spousal benefit or will it be based on my FRA benefit? Can she file a restricted application at 66 for spousal benefits only and then switch to her retirement benefit at 70? I was told that my wife’s benefit will be based on my current reduced benefit and that we both would have had to reach full retirement age to have her file a restricted application. This doesn’t sound right to me but can you confirm? Thanks, Ron
Hi Ron, As long as your wife waits until her full retirement age (FRA) to claim spousal benefits, her spousal rate will be calculated at 50% of your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is equal to your full retirement age (FRA) retirement benefit amount. The fact that you took reduced benefits doesn’t affect your wife’s spousal rate, but will limit the amount that she could receive as a widow should you die before her. And, since your wife was born prior to 1/2/1954, she can file just for spousal benefits only at FRA and allow her own retirement rate to grow until age 70. Best, Larry
Is It True That My Wife In Japan Can Receive Spousal Benefits From My Record?
Hi Larry, Is it true that wife can receive up to 50% of my Social Security retirement benefits? Is this available even if my wife has never worked? She’ll be 68 later this year. Also she is a Japanese national living right now at Japan to receive treatment for health concerns. Thanks, Curt
Hi Curt, Yes, it sounds like your wife would qualify for spousal benefits equal to 50% of your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is equal to your full retirement age (FRA) retirement benefit amount. Japanese citizens are exempt from having to meet a US residency requirement in order to qualify for auxiliary benefits. It sounds like your wife might want to file for spousal benefits as soon as possible in order to avoid a further loss of benefits. Best, Larry
Should I Start Collecting Spousal Benefits When My Wife Retires?
Hi Larry, My wife is planning to retire in June and start collecting her teacher’s pension and Social Security. She will be two months shy of 64 and her full benefits will be higher than her spousal benefits would be. I’m planning to retire next March. When she retires, should I start collecting my spousal benefits or just wait until I stop working to collect my own Social Security retirement benefits? Thanks, Vince
Hi Vince, You couldn’t file for spousal benefits anytime before your wife starts drawing her benefits, and you couldn’t file for just spousal benefits only without also filing for your own retirement benefits until you reach your full retirement age (FRA). Furthermore, even at FRA you would only be able to file just for spousal benefits only if you were born prior to 1/2/1954.
So assuming that you were born prior to 1/2/1954, it sounds like your best plan would probably be to file just for spousal benefits only when you reach FRA while allowing your own benefit rate to grow until age 70. You might want to use an expert Social Security benefits calculator, such as my company’s software or another careful and comprehensive program, to make sure that both you and your wife know your optimal filing strategies. Best, Larry
How Do I Get Credit On My Social Security For Being In The Military?
Hi Larry, I served in the military from 1964 to 1968. How do I get credit on my Social Security for this? Thanks, Jules
Hi Jules, What you could get from Social Security are deemed military wages (DMW) for your periods of active US military service. These bonuses would then added to your actual wages when calculating your Social Security retirement benefit rate.
DMWs are automatically added for years after 1967, but you normally must submit proof of your periods of active duty (e.g. form DD-214) for earlier years. If you haven’t yet filed for benefits you should plan on submitting proof of your service to Social Security when you do. Or, if you’re already receiving benefits and you don’t know if you were credited for your service, you could check with Social Security or submit proof of your service and request a recalculation of your benefit rate. Best, Larry
Am I Able To File For Benefits At Age 62?
Hi Larry, I’m turning 62 next month and my husband started collecting his Social Security retirement benefit at 65 before his full retirement age. I’m no longer working. Am I able to file for benefits at 62? Would I be better filing for spousal benefits? Thanks, Nicole
Hi Nicole, Yes, you could file for reduced benefits at age 62. What you then would receive is essentially the higher of your own retirement benefit rate or your spousal benefit rate, which would then be reduced by roughly 27% – 32% of your full retirement age rate. Before filing, you might want to use an expert Social Security benefits calculator as described in other answers to compare all of your filing options and determine your best strategy. Best, Larry
To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.