Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about how early retirement benefits affect later spousal benefits, eligibility for divorced spousal benefits, and taking reduced survivor benefits before spousal benefits. retirement. Larry Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.
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Will Social Security early retirement benefits reduce my wife’s spousal benefit?
Hi Larry, if my wife applies for her social security retirement benefits earlier at age 62, and then applies for spousal benefits at age 68 when I file my application, will her spousal benefit still be 50% of my retirement benefit or a reduced amount of spousal benefits because she claimed her retirement benefit at age 62? Thank you Robert
Hi Robert, If your wife begins to collect her own pension benefits before her full retirement age (FRA), she will be locked in with the resulting reduction in her benefit rate. Any excess spousal benefit she is eligible for would not be reduced, however, as long as she is at least FRA when you start collecting your retirement benefits.
An unreduced excess spousal benefit would be added to his reduced rate of retirement benefits to offset his total reduced spousal benefits. Her Excess Spousal Benefit would be 50% of your Principal Amount of Insurance (PIA) minus 100% of her PIA. A PIA is equal to what a person would get if they waited for their FRA to file.
You and your wife might want to consider using my company’s software – Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner – to ensure your household receives the highest benefits for life. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or nonprofit organizations may provide appropriate suggestions if constructed with extreme care. Best, Larry
Am I entitled to a spouse’s pension?
Hi Larry, I’m 65 and my ex-husband is 74. For years he collected a disability check, but he also worked. After 15 years, we divorced in 2012. I was a housewife and now live with my daughter. Am I entitled to a spouse’s pension? Thank you skyler
Hi Skyler, It looks like you’re probably eligible for divorced spouse benefits. A person can only claim divorced spouse benefits on behalf of an ex if their ex’s Principal Insurance Amount (PIA), which is equal to their Full Retirement Benefit (FRA) amount, is more than double its own PIA, but if you don’t qualify for Social Security based on your own work record, that won’t be a problem for you.
If you are at least FRA when you start collecting divorced spouse benefits, you can receive up to 50% of your ex’s PIA. You can choose to start collecting your divorced spouse benefits now, but if you start collecting anytime before your FRA, your benefit rate will be reduced based on age. Best, Larry
Do you agree with the advice I gave my friend?
Hi Larry, I have read many of your articles and am a strong supporter of your Social Security tips. My friend is 64 years old. He does not work and his wife died many years ago. I informed Dale that he could apply now for reduced survivor benefits on his work file even though it wouldn’t be much, then switch to his own retirement benefit at age 70 to receive the maximum DRC.
He then got an appointment at the SSA office and they told him he couldn’t because the law had changed. They said he could only touch the higher of the two benefits.
Do you agree with my advice for my friend? If so, what should he do about the incorrect advice from SSA? Thank you Sarah
Hi Sarah, Yes, assuming your friend is not married, it sounds like your advice is probably good. There has been no change in Social Security law that prevents a person from collecting a lower survivor benefit while waiting until a later age to claim their own retirement benefits.
Social Security employee apparently not fully trained and must be confused by new deeming rule that applies when someone files a claim for spousal benefits on a spouse or ex’s file -living spouse.
When a person born after 01/01/1954 applies for spousal or divorced spouse benefits, he is deemed to apply for his own retirement benefits at the same time. And in those cases, the person applying for benefits can essentially only collect the higher of the two benefit rates. But this rule does not apply to survivor benefits.
Social Security employees cannot refuse to allow someone to apply for benefits, whether or not the employee thinks the person is not eligible. So your friend may insist on applying for widower’s benefits. If Social Security manages his file badly, he would then have a right of appeal. Delaying filing a claim could result in a loss of benefits, so your friend should probably act quickly. Best, Larry