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Deemed Filing

Many times the question comes up – Since my spouse has filed for Social Security retirement benefits, can I file for only the Spousal Benefit?

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This is certainly available for the individual that is at or over Full Retirement Age (FRA).  This is a common circumstance that many folks employ.  One spouse files for benefits and the other, hoping to achieve the full Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs), while still receiving a benefit, files for the Spousal Benefit only.  This is a perfectly allowable method.  See this article for more information on filing for the Spousal Benefit only.

On the other hand, if you’re under FRA, this option is not available to you.  This is because, prior to FRA, if you file for the Spousal Benefit, you are deemed to have filed for your own benefit as well.  This is known as “deemed filing”, and it only applies when you’re under FRA.  The result of this action is that your own benefit will be permanently reduced, as will the Spousal Benefit that you’re filing for early as well.

This is a very important distinction to note, because the outcomes are completely in opposition to one another.  Filing for Spousal Benefit at FRA allows the individual to achieve the maximum DRCs and potentially maximize lifetime benefits; on the other hand, filing for Spousal Benefit at any time before FRA will permanently reduce the benefits you can achieve for your lifetime.

The balance to weigh out between these two options is the length of time that you’d receive the benefits – in other words, how long you’ll live.  If you end up living considerably past your early 80’s, the delay tactic would probably work out best for you.  If you don’t live as long, filing for both benefits earlier could work out better.  Or a possible “split the difference” tactic could be for you to file for your own benefit early and delay filing for the Spousal Benefit until FRA.  This would work best if there is a significant difference between the lower-earning spouse and the higher-earning spouse.

It should be noted that, in any case, for a person to file for Spousal Benefits, the other spouse must have filed for his or her own benefit.  And if that spouse is at or above FRA, he or she could have suspended receiving the benefit, this would not affect the other spouse’s options in filing for Spousal Benefits.

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8 Comments

  1. I am still not clear on deemed filing. My husband is 69. He is still working, but has already filed at FRA.
    I am 59. Due to serious heart health issues, I plan to retire at 62. Do I file for MY (reduced) benefit at age 62, or a (reduced) Spousal Benefit from my husbands Social Security income?
    His salary is greater than mine. I think “Deemed Filing” is because I am under FRA, right? Do I collect one check, from MY Social Security benefits until I am FRA, and then collect a (reduced) Spousal Benefit? Or both?
    Each couple’s situation is different. I want to do what will be best for us, but I’m not clear on exactly which course of action is the right for our set of circumstances.

    1. jblankenshipNo Gravatar says:

      Janet –

      Deemed filing requires that, if you are under Full Retirement Age and you’re filing for EITHER your own benefit or the Spousal Benefit and you’re eligible for both, then you are deemed to be filing for both benefits.

      In the situation you describe, since your husband has filed for his benefit, once you reach age 62 you are eligible for the Spousal Benefit. If you file before age 66 you have no alternative but to file for both your own benefit and the Spousal Benefit, and both will be reduced since you’re filing prior to FRA.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  2. Mark MathesNo Gravatar says:

    At FRA for each, can both spouses file and suspend and each apply for the spousal benefit? The FRAs are 14 months apart with the much lower spouses PIA being the earlier FRA.

    1. jblankenshipNo Gravatar says:

      No, only one spouse can receive the spousal benefit at a time.

      jb

  3. [...] currently eligible for the Spousal Benefit in the month that she files for her own benefit, due to deemed filing); she cannot file for Spousal Benefits early (before FRA) and delay her own [...]

  4. StephenNo Gravatar says:

    My wife and I are 64 years of age.

    I have been reading some of your explanations concerning spousal benefits and wonder if you could confirm or clarify something.

    My wife began drawing SS benefits when she was 62, but because she has not worked outside the home very much the amount is small; namely about $200 per month.

    However, I do not plan on drawing any SS benefits until my full retirement age of 66. Since I was and am the primary source of income, the SS benefit amount I am scheduled to receive at FRA is considerably higher than hers.

    Question: When I begin drawing full benefits at 66, does her spousal benefit amount to 35% of my full benefit, and is that 35% added to the $200 she already gets?

    Kind regards,
    Stephen

    1. jblankenshipNo Gravatar says:

      Stephen –
      Since the amount of your wife’s own benefit is small, the reduction for taking early benefits is small as well, in terms of real dollars. Because of that, when she (and you) reach FRA and she files for Spousal benefits, her overall benefit will be relatively close to 50% of your benefit, only reduced by the small amount that her own benefit was reduced.

      Hope that helps –

      jb

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