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Ask Larry: How Will Taking Social Security Spousal Benefits At 62 Affect My Wife’s Benefit Rate?

Today’s column addresses questions about benefit rates after filing early, who can still file restricted applications for spousal benefits only and what happens when a disabled child turns 18. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, which markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


How Will Taking Social Security Spousal Benefits At 62 Affect My Wife’s Benefit Rate?

Hi Larry, I began collecting my Social Security benefit at full retirement age. I am currently collecting $3,000 monthly. My wife would like to stop working at 62. At full retirement age, she would receive $1,980 monthly for her retirement benefit.

How much will her monthly benefit be is she claims spousal benefits at 62? Thanks, Sal

Hi Sal, Your wife can’t claim her spousal benefit without claiming her own retirement benefit at the same time. Only people born prior to 1/2/1954 can filed restricted applications like that, and only if they wait until full retirement age (FRA) or later to claim spousal benefits.

Your wife could only be paid the higher of her own benefit rate or her spousal rate, and her rate will be reduced if she starts drawing prior to her FRA.

If your wife’s own primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than 50% of your PIA, she could never qualify for benefits based on your record while you’re living. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA).

Your wife may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to explore her available options and determine her best strategy to maximize her benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry


Would It Be More Advantageous For Me To Collect On My Own Record Or My Ex’s Record?

Hi Larry, I am currently working and living in the Netherlands. I have lived and worked overseas for the past 17 years. My home state is Iowa. I turn 65 in July, 2021. I was married for 17 years.

I have not remarried since my divorce in 2001. Would it be more advantageous for me to collect on my ex-husbands record rather than mine. I worked in Wisconsin for 17 years. My ex has been collecting on his Social Security for six years. He turned 69 in December. Thanks, Callie

Hi Callie, Since you were born after 1/1/1954, whenever you apply for either your own benefits or for divorced spousal benefits you’ll be deemed to be filing for both benefits.

Your resulting benefit rate will essentially amount to the higher of the two rates, and your rate will be reduced for age if you start drawing prior to your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 and four months. Best, Larry


Will My Son Keep Getting Benefits On His Father’s Record When He Turns 18?

Hi Larry, My disabled 17 year old child is receiving SSDI because his 62 year old father is on disability. When my son turns 18 will he be able to continue collecting on his father’s record, which gives him higher amount, or will he have to file on his own record. Thanks, Brenda

Hi Brenda, Just to clarify, Social Security disability (SSDI) benefits are only payable to people who qualify based on their own work and earnings history. I assume that what your son receives are child’s benefits based on his father’s work and earnings.

Those benefits can continue indefinitely regardless of your son’s age, provided that he has been determined to meet Social Security’s requirements for being considered disabled. Such benefits are now called childhood disability benefits (CDBs) and were formerly called disabled adult child (DAC) benefits.

The earliest that a child can qualify for CDBs is at 18, so your son must currently be collecting regular child’s benefits rather than CDBs.

Unless Social Security has already determined that your son meets their disability standards, you will need to file a claim for CDBs in order to allow your son’s benefits to convert from child’s benefits to CDBs benefits at 18. It sounds like you should contact Social Security to clarify what you’ll need to do to establish that your son meets the requirements for CDBs. Best, Larry


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