Ask Larry: Can I Get Spousal Benefits Now?
Social Security may be one of your largest assets. What and when you collect will make a huge difference to your lifetime benefits.
Today’s post addresses when spousal benefit can become available, the effect of filing early on later widow(er)’s benefits, how remarriage can affect divorced spousal benefits, when to file for survivor’s benefits and credits for military service. 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:
Can I Get Spousal Benefits Now?
Hi Larry, I’ve been reading your book, em>Get What’s Yours. My husband filed and suspended his Social Security retirement benefit at 66 before April 30, 2016. I visited the Social Security office and was told that I would not get my full spousal benefits. I have not filed yet, but have made another appointment for next month. Can you help by explaining what I might be able to get? Thanks, Ella
Hi Ella, If your husband suspended his benefits before 4/29/2016, then you could potentially draw spousal benefits on his record while his benefits are in suspense. However, you must be at least full retirement age (FRA) in order to file just for spousal benefits only without also being deemed to file for benefits on your own record. If you file before FRA, you would be deemed to be filing for both retirement and spousal benefits and you would only receive essentially the higher of the 2 benefit rates, plus your benefit amount would be reduced for age.
You don’t mention your current age or the date when your husband suspended his Social Security retirement benefits, so I really can’t too specific. You may want to strongly consider using an expert Social Security benefits calculator as described in other answers to determine your best course of action. Best, Larry
Would Filing For Reduced Spousal Benefits Also Cause Me To Receive Reduced Widow’s Benefits?
Hi Larry, My husband started his Social Security retirement benefits at 70 and I have never worked outside of the home. I would like to file for reduced spousal benefits in 9 months when I turn 62. Will my filing for reduced spousal benefits, at 62 reduce my widow benefit even if I’m over my FRA when he dies? Thanks, Marian
Hi Marian, No, filing for reduced spousal benefits would not cause your widow’s benefit rate to be reduced as long as you are at least full retirement age (FRA) at the time of your husband’s death. Spousal benefits and widow’s benefits are separate categories of benefits, and any reduction for age is calculated independently based on the beneficiary’s age at the time they become entitled to each type of benefit. Best, Larry
Can I Collect On My Ex’s Record If I’m Remarried?
Hi Larry, I am 58 and I married my second husband at 51. My own earnings record is dismal and my projected benefits are $300 month. My husband is 62 and is currently collecting SSDI of $1,200 per month. I have a previous marriage of over 10 years. My ex-husband is a very high earner and I suspect his Social Security retirement benefit would be about as high as one could get. We are willing to divorce after 10 years of marriage if it means I will be able to collect on my ex’s record. Could I then remarry my current husband after the age Social Security requires and still be able to collect on my first husband’s record? If my ex died after the remarriage, would I still be able to collect survivor benefits? Thanks, Eileen
Hi Eileen, As long as your ex-husband is living you can’t draw benefits on his record if you are currently married to someone else, regardless of your age at the time of your remarriage. If your ex-husband dies, you could potentially draw surviving divorced spouse’s benefits if you are unmarried, or if you are married and your remarriage occurred when you were age 60 or older. Best, Larry
Does My Plan Sound Reasonable?
Hi Larry, I am turning 65 in October. My husband of 22 years passed away six years ago and was 21 years older than me. I will continue working until I am at least 66 but plan on drawing my Social Security widow’s benefit in January at a reduce but still decently substantial rate of $,1820. I will still work and collect the widow’s benefit because for some reason my widow’s benefit does not increase after I turn 66. Can I then collect my own retirement benefit at 70, which will be a little bit higher? Thanks, Alison
Hi Alison, I’m sorry for your loss. Yes, your plan sounds fine to me based on the information given in your question. You may want to confirm this with an expert Social Security benefits calculator, such as my company’s software or another top rate program, just to be sure that you choose the best possible strategy. Best, Larry
Am I Able To Get $1,200 For Military Service?
Hi Larry, Am I able to get 1,200 for military service ? I don’t remember seeing that credit on my record. Thanks, Carlos
Hi Carlos, What you can get are Social Security credits called deemed military wages (DMW) of up to $1,200 for each full year of active duty in the U.S. military from 1957 through 2001. These deemed, or extra, wages are then added to your actual wages for those years when determining your countable earnings for purposes of calculating the Social Security benefit rate payable on your record. DMWs aren’t real money and aren’t actually paid to anyone, but they can potentially boost the Social Security benefit rate paid to military veterans. Best, Larry
To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.