Today’s column addresses questions about the ability to receive spousal benefits after filing early for Social Security retirement benefits, taking Social Security survivor benefits before retirement benefits and whether a survivor’s benefit from a non-covered pension would affect Social Security retirement benefits. 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.
Will I Get Spousal Benefits In Addition To My Social Security Retirement Benefits?
Hi Larry, I am turning 62 next month and plan on collecting my Social Security retirement benefit. It’s $871 per month. My husband will only be 60 next month when I file. Can I also draw spousal benefits? Thanks, Cynthia
Hi Cynthia, You couldn’t draw spousal benefits at least until your husband starts drawing his retirement benefits. And even then, you’ll only qualify for spousal benefits in addition to your own benefits if 50% of your husband’s primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than your own PIA. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing at full retirement age (FRA). Furthermore, if you do qualify for a spousal benefit and if your husband files before you reach FRA, your spousal rate will also be reduced for age.
For example, say Dana files for her Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. Dana’s PIA is $1,223, but her benefit rate is reduced to $871 in return for starting her benefits early. Two years later when Dana is age 64, her husband files for his benefits with a PIA of $2,600. Dana’s unreduced spousal rate would be calculated by subtracting her PIA from 50% of her husband’s PIA, which in Dana’s case is $77 (i.e. $2,600 / 2 – $1,223). However, since Dana is only 64 when she first qualifies for her spousal benefits, her spousal rate would be reduced to $58. That amount would then be paid in addition to Dana’s own reduced benefit of $871 to give her a combined benefit amount of $929.
You and your husband may want to try my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — so you can see all of your filing options, find your maximized strategy and make an informed decision about exactly what filing strategy to follow. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry
Can I Collect Widower Benefits At 66 And Let My Own Benefits Grow Until 70?
Hi Larry, I will be turning 66 in December of this year. My wife of 30 years died when I was 52. I remarried when I was 64. I plan on working until age 70 and was wondering if I could collect widower’s benefits at 66 and let my own retirement benefits grow until 70, so I can collect at a higher 32% rate. Thanks, Chuck
Hi Chuck, Yes, that’s certainly a possibility. In fact, if your earnings would permit payment of any widower’s benefits prior to the month you reach age 66 it would likely be advantageous to file for the widower’s benefits as soon as possible.
Remarriages occurring after a person reaches 60 have no adverse effect on their eligibility for widow(er) benefits. Therefore, you can potentially qualify for benefits as a widower even though you’ve remarried. Best, Larry
Will I Receive My Full Social Security Benefits Even Though I Receive A CSRS Survivor Benefit?
Hi Larry, I’m currently receiving a survivors annuity from my wife who was a post office employee under the CRSR program, meaning she did not pay into Social Security but instead paid into a retirement pension. Will I be able to receive my full Social Security benefits even though I’m receiving survivors benefits from her pension? Thanks, Lou
Hi Lou, Yes, receipt of a federal CSRS survivor pension would have no effect on any type of Social Security benefits for which you may be eligible. The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO) do not apply to a person receiving a survivor’s benefit based on income that wasn’t taxed by Social Security so it will have no effect on your own Social Security retirement benefit that is based on your work, which I presume you paid Social Security taxes on. Best, Larry
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