Can my wife get Social Security early retirement benefits before spousal benefits?

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Today’s column addresses questions about taking reduced retirement benefits before subsequent spousal benefits, whether there is a better time of year to retire and the potential availability of spousal benefits after divorce. . Larry Kotlikoff is professor of economics at Boston University and founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Do you have social security questions yourself that you would like to answer? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


Can my wife get Social Security early retirement benefits before spousal benefits?

Hi Larry, I plan to take my Social Security retirement pension at 70 since my wife is four years younger and that way she will have higher survivor benefits if she survives me. My wife has pension benefits, but they are less than half of mine. If she takes her retirement benefits before her FRA, can she take the spouse later to her FRA or would she be deemed to take both? Thanks Duncan

Hi Duncan, Since your wife was apparently born after 1/1/1954, she could not claim her own Social Security retirement benefits or spousal benefits without being deemed to have filed both benefits. But she couldn’t claim spousal benefits until you started collecting your pension benefits. So if your wife files her pension claims before you start collecting yours, she will be deemed to have claimed spousal benefits after you file your pension claims.

Your wife can apply for her retirement benefits any time after she turns 62, but if she starts collecting her benefits before full retirement age (FRA), her benefit rate will be reduced based on the age. And that reduction will continue for as long as you both live, even if she subsequently qualifies for spousal benefits.

You and your wife may want to consider using my company’s software – Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner – to fully analyze your options to determine your best strategy for maximizing your benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other businesses or nonprofits may provide suitable suggestions if they have been constructed with extreme care. Best, Larry


What would be the best time of year for me to retire?

Hi Larry, I’m 70 and still working and I applied for my Social Security retirement benefits three months before I turned 70. I plan to retire in five years. What is the best time of year to retire? On my 75th birthday? Six months in the year or at the end of the year?

In addition, being divorced, I was entitled to spousal benefits. After the second year of spousal benefits, SSA informed me that I had been overpaid and needed to repay them. The amount of benefits has been almost halved. I appealed because it was their calculation that made the mistake.

Do I have grounds for such an appeal? It has been two years since I appealed and the problem has not been resolved. Thanks Allan

Hi Allan, When it comes to Social Security benefits, it really wouldn’t make much of a difference what time of year you retire. Since you are past the full retirement age (FRA), you can collect all of your benefits regardless of how much you earn, so that’s not a problem. The only possible difference would be that your income in the year you retire is high enough to increase your benefit rate.

Social Security retirement benefits are based on an average of a person’s highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings covered by Social Security, so additional earnings years do not increase the benefit rate. of a person only if they are greater than one or more of the 35 years currently in progress. used to calculate the person’s benefit rate.

As for calling your overpayment, there is no way for me to know why you might have been overpaid. However, when you appeal an overpayment, you question the fact or the amount of the overpayment. So, if it is determined that there has indeed been an overpayment, an appeal will not erase your liability for reimbursement, even if you are not at fault in causing the overpayment.

The issue of fault is only important when a person requests the waiver (i.e., remission) of an overpayment. But in order for your overpayment to be reversed, in addition to being faultless in the cause of the overpayment, you must either be financially unable to repay the overpayment or the recovery of the overpayment should be considered against the overpayment. equity and good conscience according to social security. rules.

If you think you might be eligible for a waiver of your overpayment, you should probably contact Social Security to discuss your options. Best, Larry


If my wife and I divorce or separate, will my wife still be able to claim spousal benefits?

Hi Larry: I’ll be 70 in September. My wife is 74 this month. I have not yet claimed my Social Security retirement benefit and my wife does not have any income credits on her own, so she will only be able to claim spousal benefits. We got married at the end of 2014.

If we divorce or separate before I turn 70, will my wife be able to claim spousal benefits? If we divorce or separate after I start collecting my superannuation and my wife starts collecting spousal benefits, but then we divorce with less than 10 years of marriage, my wife will lose. her spouse’s benefit? Thanks Liam

Hi Liam, Your wife may still be entitled to spousal benefits even if you separate, as long as you do not divorce. However, she would not be eligible for spousal benefits if you divorce, unless your marriage lasts at least 10 years.

If you divorce before you start receiving your benefits, your spouse will not be able to claim any spouse, divorced or survivor benefits if your marriage has lasted less than 10 years. If you divorce after starting to receive your benefits and if your marriage lasts less than 10 years, your wife’s eligibility for benefits on your account ends from the month in which your divorce is final. Best, Larry



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