Ask Larry: How Can We Restrict Our Social Security Application 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 column addresses filing restricted applications in light of recent changes, which month to file an application, eligibility for spousal benefits, potential effects of a public pension survivor benefit, and spousal benefits before retirement benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Ask Larry about Social Security here.

How Can We Restrict Our Social Security Application Now?​​

Hi Larry, I was born in 1952 and my wife was born in June of 1954. We tried to file a restricted application for me to get spousal benefits only and were told yes we could do this but my wife had to file for her retirement benefits in order to go forward. They said she could no longer file and suspend her retirement benefit. Is this correct? Has filing and suspending really been ended? Thanks, Steve

Hi Steve, Yes, what you were told is correct. Your wife would have to be drawing her retirement benefits in order for you to be able to draw spousal benefits. The ability to file and suspend has not been eliminated, but starting with 4/29/2016, if a person files for and suspends their retirement benefits, no spousal benefits can be paid on their record for as long as the suspension of benefits continues. Best, Larry

What Month Should We Choose?​​

Hi Larry, My wife reaches FRA in November 2019. I am 64 and the higher earner. We’re thinking of filing simultaneously so she can file a restricted application for spousal benefit and let her benefit grow. What month should we do this. Should it be November or do we have to wait until the month after her FRA? It’s very clear that if claiming at 62, it is the month after, but at FRA it seems the actual month of the birthday is okay for both filing restricted applications and to avoid reductions. Is that right? Thanks, Carlo

Hi Carlo, Your wife’s month of full retirement age (FRA) attainment would be November, and that’s the first possible month that she could file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. A person doesn’t need to be FRA for an entire month in order to qualify for their FRA benefit rate. But if you’re the high earner, it’s unlikely that filing before your FRA and incurring permanent reductions in your benefit while also forgoing delayed retirement credits (DRCs) you’d earn by delaying past your FRA is your best strategy.

If you haven’t already done so, you may want to use one of my company’s two tools — Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner — to help maximize your lifetime Social Security benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry

Can My Wife Apply For Spousal Benefits?​​

Hi Larry, Both my wife and I are over 66 years old. I am collecting my Social Security retirement benefits after starting them at my FRA. She is still working full time. Can she apply for spousal benefits? Her current FRA benefits are higher than 50% of mine. Thanks, Trent

Hi Trent, Yes, since your wife was born prior to 1/2/1954 and since she’s reached her full retirement age, she could file a restricted application for spousal benefits only on your record while letting her own benefits grow until 70. It sounds like your wife should probably file for spousal benefits as soon as possible in order to prevent a possible loss of benefits. She could also file for six months of retroactive benefits or back to her FRA if that’s less than six months. Best, Larry

Will My Husband’s Social Security Be Affected By WEP If He Receives A Survivor Pension?

Hi Larry, I am working for the state and I stop contributing to Social Security because I will get a pension from the state government. My husband is contributing to Social Security. I know the WEP applies to my retirement benefit, but if my husband is my survivor, and he gets survivor benefits through my pension from the state, will his Social Security be affected by the WEP? Thanks, Mary

Hi Mary, The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) can only cause a person’s Social Security retirement or disability benefits to be reduced if they receive a pension based on their own earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes. So if your husband receives a survivor pension based on your non Social Security covered work, it will have no effect on his Social Security benefits. Best, Larry

How Would Filing For Spousal Benefits Affect My Own Benefits At Age 70?​​

Hi Larry, My wife and I just turned 67 in September. She has been receiving Social Security benefits for less than a year. I plan to wait to 70 to draw my Social Security. If I apply today for spousal benefits, how would that affect my age 70 benefit? Should I be concerned about losing COLAs. Thanks, Tom

Hi Tom, Filing a restricted application for just spousal benefits won’t have any effect on your own Social Security retirement benefits, so it sounds like you should probably file for the spousal benefits immediately. You could have started drawing your spousal benefits as soon as your wife started drawing her benefits, but you can only claim benefits retroactively for a maximum of six months from your date of application. Therefore, a delay in filing may result in a loss of benefits. Best, Larry

To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.

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