Tips For Applying Spousal Benefits

You can elect to delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits until you are past normal (full) retirement age (age 66 for those born 1943-1954). Perhaps you want to work longer because you enjoy it, or maybe you want your retirement benefit to be higher when you finally do retire. There are a number of pros and cons to consider when deciding whether to delay receiving Social Security retirement benefits. One factor that can be affected by delaying benefits is Spousal Social Security Benefits.

If you have reached full retirement age, but are not yet receiving benefits, you may want to “file and suspend” by applying for benefits, then immediately requesting to have those payments suspended so that you can continue to earn delayed retirement credits. This may enable an eligible spouse to collect benefits on your earnings record (normally, a husband or wife who is eligible to file for retirement benefits based on his or her spouse’s record cannot do so until his or her spouse begins receiving benefits).

If you are married, you or your spouse, but not both, at least not simultaneously, can potentially collect a spousal benefit based on the other spouse’s earnings history.

For example, assume one spouse has a low earnings history, compared to the other retired spouse. The low earnings spouse can be entitled to one-half of the retired spouse’s full retirement benefit. Keep in mind, if you are eligible for both your retirement benefit and a spousal benefit, Social Security always pays your own retirement benefit first. If your spousal benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, you will receive a combination of the two benefits equaling one-half of the higher earning spouse’s benefits.

If you have reached your full retirement age, and are eligible for a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s benefit, and your full retirement benefit, you may choose to receive spousal benefits, as mentioned above, and continue accruing delayed retirement credits on your own Social Security record. You may then file for your own retirement benefit at age 70 and receive a higher monthly benefit based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.

For those seeking spousal benefits prior to full retirement age, the spousal benefit would be 35 percent, not 50 percent of the higher income spouse’s, benefit, if spousal benefits began at age 62.

You can estimate your retirement benefit online using the Retirement Estimator Calculator on the Social Security website at www.ssa.gov.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2016.

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