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DH was born in 1952 (now age 69). I was born in 1953 (now age 68). We both started collecting Social Security at age 62. This is because I expect that we will both have shortened life expectancies. The break-even calculation was age 78. DH is a smoker who already has moderate COPD; his father died of COPD at age 65. I was treated for bilateral breast cancer at age 62, in 2015. My mother died of cancer at age 72 so I feel like I have a sell-by stamp on my butt. However, I have a cousin who has survived breast cancer for over 20 years after treatment so it's hard to say for sure.

I have just been reading about spousal Social Security benefits in "Money Magic: An Economist's Secrets to More Money, Less Risk, and a Better Life," by Laurence J. Kotlikoff. If I understand him correctly, I can turn off my own Social Security and claim a "spousal benefit" which would be half of my husband's Social Security. (Which is less than mine because I worked longer than he did.) Then I can wait until age 70 to re-start my own Social Security which will then pay a higher amount than the early (age 62) benefit.

This is what Social Security says:
https://faq.ssa.gov/en-us/Topic/article/KA-02011
https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/suspend.html...

Suspending Your Retirement Benefit Payments

If you have reached full retirement age, but are not yet age 70, you can ask us to suspend your retirement benefit payments. By doing this, you will earn delayed retirement credits for each month your benefits are suspended which will result in a higher benefit payment to you.

If your benefit payments are suspended, they will automatically start again the month you reach age 70.


What is the eligibility for Social Security spouse’s benefits and my own retirement benefits? (This is a separate page from the previous one.)


If you have not worked or do not have enough Social Security credits to qualify for your own Social Security benefits, you may be able to receive spouse’s benefits.
To qualify for spouse’s benefits, you must be one of these:

At least 62 years of age.

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to one-half the amount your spouse is entitled to receive at their full retirement age. ...

You will receive your full spouse’s benefit amount if you wait until you reach full retirement age to begin receiving benefits. [I qualify since I am age 68.]

If you do have enough credits to qualify for your own Social Security benefits and you apply for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefits first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefits, you will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit...
[end quote]

Prof. Kotlikoff says that the Social Security web pages are often misleading. He also makes a very strong point that people can live much longer than they expect to. So it may make sense for me to suspend my Social Security and apply for a spousal Social Security benefit for the next 2 years in order to bump up my benefits starting at age 70.


Has anyone here done that? What procedure did you follow?
Thanks,
Wendy
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Added to my above post:
https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement/planner/claiming.htm...


Filing Rules for Retirement and Spouses Benefits

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 made some changes to Social Security’s laws about filing for retirement and spousal benefits.

First Change: Timing of Multiple Benefits
(also called “Deemed Filing”)

Deemed filing means that when you file for either your retirement or your spouse’s benefit, you are required or “deemed” to file for the other benefit as well. The Bipartisan Budget Act extends deemed filing rules to apply at full retirement age and beyond.

What is the reason for this change? Historically, if spousal benefits were higher than their own retirement benefit, they received a combination of benefits equaling the higher benefit. This change in the law preserves the fairness of the incentives to delay, but it means that you cannot receive one type of benefit while at the same time earning a bonus for delaying the other benefit.

For requests submitted on or after April 30, 2016:
You can voluntarily suspend benefit payments at your full retirement age to earn higher benefits for delaying.

If you have suspended your benefits, you cannot continue receiving other benefits (such as spousal benefits) on another person’s record.
What is the reason for this change? Couples can no longer simultaneously receive a benefit and get a bonus for delaying to file.
[end quote]

This directly contradicts what Prof. Kotlikoff wrote. So now I am confused. Is it possible to suspend my benefits and get spousal benefits on my husband's record or not? If it is possible, how to do it?

Wendy
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Is it possible to suspend my benefits and get spousal benefits on my husband's record or not? If it is possible, how to do it?

Not any longer. As you found, the loophole that allowed you to claim benefits on DH's record when you are eligible for benefits on your record was closed as of 5/1/16. From towards the end of your first post:

If you do have enough credits to qualify for your own Social Security benefits and you apply for your own retirement benefits and for benefits as a spouse, we always pay your own benefits first. So if you apply for any benefits, SSA will look first to the benefits that you earned. Since that's more than 50% of DH's benefit, you will get benefits based on your record.

Until age 70, you can suspend your payments in order to increase your future payments, but you won't get any payments at all while yours are suspended. Since benefits no longer increase after age 70, it doesn't make sense to not claim after you reach age 70.

AJ
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What you would originally qualify for, I believe, is to file a restricted application. For those born before Jan 2, 1954, you can file at your full retirement age or older for your benefit and as long as your spouse has already filed for their benefit, at any age, you can restrict your benefit to the spousal benefit (50% of spousal PIA), which would allow your benefit to increase at 8% per year (accrue delayed retirement credits) up to age 70, when DRC stops and then switch from spousal benefit to your own. What likely prevents you from being able to do this now is because you already began your own benefit before your FRA. When you do that Social Security will be 'deemed' to give you both your benefit + spousal benefit, so you've used both. I believe this prevents you from using the restricted application. However, you can call Social Security and ask.

BruceM
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What likely prevents you from being able to do this now is because you already began your own benefit before your FRA.

Well, that's one issue. The bigger issue is that all of these requests had to be filed on or before April 30, 2016. So even if they hadn't begun their own benefits, they still wouldn't be able to qualify, since they missed the deadline.

AJ
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Well, that's one issue. The bigger issue is that all of these requests had to be filed on or before April 30, 2016.

I believe your speaking about file-and-suspend, which allowed a spouse to file at or above FRA and then suspend benefits allowing spouse to file for spousal benefit while their benefit accrued DRCs. Yes, that did end April 30, 2016.

Individuals born before Jan 2, 1954 can still file a Restricted Application up until 2023 when the youngest of this group will be 70 and so a Restricted Application would no longer matter. DW filed for Restricted Application in 2018 when she hit FRA and I'd already started my benefit. She's been drawing a 50% on my PIA spousal benefit and will change to her increased benefit of 132% of her PIA when she turns 70 this year.

As I said earlier, I don't think those who have already begun benefits longer than 12 months ago can take advantage of Restricted Application even if born before Jan 2, 1954.

BruceM
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As another poster noted, you can suspend your benefits, but all your SSI will be turned off for two years until you reach 70.

On the other hand, your benefit at 70 will be 16% higher than today's benefit (that's if you're exactly 68. The actual increase is calculated by the month). Of note- since your benefit is already higher than your husband's, your newly increased check would serve as the survivor's benefit should one of you predecease the other.

You need to work the math to see if you can live without your benefit for two years. Also, please note- as the lower-earning spouse, whatever spousal benefit your husband might be earning will stop for two years as well.

https://www.aarp.org/retirement/social-security/questions-an...
https://www.fidelity.com/learning-center/personal-finance/re...
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