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File & Suspend and Restricted Application are NOT Equal

spousal bene

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Bill of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details.

We’ve discussed the Social Security filing options of File & Suspend and Restricted Application many times before, but it seems that folks continue to confuse these two options. It’s easy to see why: one (File & Suspend) can be used to enable the other (Restricted Application). Also, neither option is available until the individual is at least at Full Retirement Age (FRA). It’s important to know the difference between File & Suspend and Restricted Application though – primarily because if you confuse the two when talking to the Social Security folks, you’ll have a much different outcome than you expected and hoped for.

Let’s start by defining each option.  

File & Suspend:  This is where an individual, who is at least at Full Retirement Age (age 66 if born between 1943 and 1954), files for his or her own retirement benefit and then immediately suspends receipt of those benefits.  This sets a date for filing for the individual, which provides for dependent or auxiliary benefits (such as spousal or children’s benefits) to be paid based upon that individual’s record.  In addition, since the receipt of benefits has been suspended, this individual’s future benefit is allowed to grow at the rate of 8% per year, up to his or her age 70.

It is important to note that the first part (File) is necessary to enable the auxiliary benefits to be paid based upon the account. The second part (Suspend) is only necessary if the individual wants to delay his or her filing to allow for the growth just mentioned above.

Restricted Application:  This is where an individual, who is at least Full Retirement Age, has not filed for any benefits previously, and whose spouse has established a filing date (and could have suspended), files for ONLY the spousal benefit that is based upon the spouse’s record. If the individual doesn’t specifically file a Restricted Application, he or she will be filing for all benefits currently available to him or her.

This is important because if the individual who is filing has a retirement benefit of his or her own that either is larger or could eventually be larger than the Spousal Benefit, filing the Restricted Application allows his or her own retirement benefit to be delayed and future benefits will grow by the same 8% per year as mentioned above.

Examples of File & Suspend and Restricted Application

It’s very easy to see why these two are confusing. Let’s run through a couple of examples to help clarify.

Example 1: John and Joyce are ages 64 and 62 respectively. John has a benefit available to him of $1,500 once he reaches Full Retirement Age, and Joyce’s FRA benefit would be $800. The couple would like to maximize both benefits in order to receive the most money over their expected lifetimes, which they project to be at least into their mid-80’s.

When John reaches FRA, he doesn’t have to do anything – his benefit will continue to grow at the 8% Delayed Retirement Credit rate with no action on his part. However, he would benefit (and lose nothing) by enacting File & Suspend, which would open the door for Joyce (when she reaches FRA) to file for Spousal Benefits. It’s required that, in order to file for Spousal Benefits, the other spouse must have established a filing date.

So, when Joyce reaches FRA, if John didn’t File & Suspend, she has only one choice available. She can either file for her own benefit at the rate of $800 per month, or she could delay her filing and achieve the 8% increases annually.

However, if John does File & Suspend, Joyce has another option: filing a Restricted Application. This would allow Joyce to receive 50% of John’s FRA benefit, equal to $750 per month ($1,500 x 50%), and allow her own benefit to increase by the 8% factor. This way she’s receiving almost as much as her retirement benefit and when she reaches age 70 her own benefit would be increased to $1,056.

Example 2: Same facts as above, but John and Joyce only want to maximize John’s benefit, and would like to start Joyce’s benefit now at her age 62.  Her benefit would be reduced to $600 (75% of her FRA benefit of $800) per month.

Since John is under FRA, he does nothing at this point. When he reaches FRA, John has a unique option available to him: he can either File & Suspend, which would only establish a filing date for him and nothing more; OR since Joyce has already filed for her benefit, John could file a Restricted Application. This would allow John’s benefit to continue to accrue the Delayed Retirement Credits of 8% per year in order to maximize his benefit, but at the same time he could be receiving a Spousal Benefit equal to 50% of Joyce’s FRA benefit, or $400 (Joyce’s FRA benefit of $800 x 50%) even though she filed earlier and received a reduced benefit.

By doing this, now John and Joyce will be receiving $1,000 (her reduced $600 plus his Spousal Benefit of $400) per month until John reaches age 70, when he files for his own benefit which has increased to $1,980 per month. Joyce would continue with her $600 reduced benefit, making their total benefit $2,580 per month.

So you might ask, why can’t Joyce file for Spousal Benefits at some point? Since she filed for her own benefit earlier and her own benefit (at FRA) would be greater than the Spousal Benefit ($750), she is not eligible for any Spousal Benefit. She also could not file a Restricted Application since she already established a filing date, at her age 62.

Example 3: Sid and Nancy, both age 62, both with the same retirement benefit available at Full Retirement age, $1,200 each. They would like to maximize their benefits over their lifetimes which they project to be at least into their mid-80’s.

Since they want to maximize both benefits over their lifetimes, they will not take any action at their current ages of 62. They’ve heard of this File & Suspend thing and they think they should take advantage of it. Not having read about it, when they reach FRA, they call Social Security (individually) and tell them that each of them would like to File & Suspend. Now both of them will be able to delay receipt of benefits until age 70, receiving an increase to their benefits of 32% (8% per year) for a total benefit to for each at $1,584 per month for a total of $3,168 per month together.

Unfortunately Sid and Nancy only thought they understood File & Suspend, but by enacting File & Suspend for both of them they eliminated the possibility for either of them to file a Restricted Application. Since they eliminated this, they effectively left $600 per month “on the table” for four years – a total of over $28,000.

If on the other hand only Sid had enacted File & Suspend, Nancy could have filed a Restricted Application. She would then receive 50% of Sid’s FRA benefit, $600 per month, and her own benefit would continue to accrue the Delayed Retirement Credits of 8% per month. The end result is that Nancy would still receive the 32% increased benefit at age 70, just the same as Sid, but they would also have received the $600 per month in Spousal Benefits for four years. (This would have worked exactly the same if Nancy had enacted File & Suspend and Sid filed a Restricted Application.)

I hope that these examples have helped to straighten out the concepts in your mind and that you don’t confuse the two when talking to SSA about your benefits. If you have further situations that you’d like to toss out as examples, feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to address them.

428 Comments

  1. Jen Garb says:

    Totally unfair that one person born on the last day to be able to benefit and another person born the day after get treated differently for social security. Should be progressive to be fair.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Agreed, but there has to be a cut-off somewhere, when changing the rules.

      1. Robert says:

        I turned 66 in Feb.,2016. I have Filed and Suspended my SS benefits. My wife who is 67 has been receiving spousal benefits of $1280 starting Feb.,2016. I believe my present SS benefit would be around $2580 if I decided to receive benefits starting today.

        My original plan is to start my SS benefits at 70y.o. If waiting to this age to receive benefits, at what age would be my break-even point when comparing with receiving the SS benefits now? Many factors to consider like: inflation, how long one will likely live, chances of earlier death that anticipated, enjoying funds at today’s valuation, investing funds with strong dividend paying companies, etc.

        1. jblankenship says:

          You’ve alluded to the complications in that question, Robert. There are many answers to the “break even” question, and all of them are right or wrong depending on your point of view.

          If all of those factors are removed though and we only look at the raw dollars received, delaying from age 66 to 70 produces a breakeven point around age 82 – meaning 12 years would have to be received (either by your or your wife if you die before her) in order for it to have paid off.

  2. Ken says:

    Since the death of file-and-suspend ruined my plans, I’m considering filing at my FRA (66) this year and having spouse file for half (would be considerably more than filing on her own). However, I would keep working full-time. (Spouse would not work.) I’ve run the numbers and for a reasonable number of years we come out ahead doing that rather than both holding off until I reach 70. My calculations, however, do not include any tax considerations. We would draw a total of about $43K/year. With my non-SS income, it looks like I’d be in the category of getting 85% of SS taxed for a few years, until I eventually retired (probably at 70). Can you give me some kind of rule-of-thumb regarding whether the tax consequences make this strategy a no-win situation? Thanks for this site!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sorry, I don’t have a rule of thumb like you’re looking for. The 85% taxability comes into play when half of your Social Security benefits plus all of your other income exceeds $44,000. In your case that means roughly $22,500 in other income. If that’s going to be the case for you regardless, then the tax issue doesn’t matter. If you’ll be earning something less than $22,500 after you officially retire, then your SS benefits may be subject to less taxation later.

  3. Hello, I will be 62 on October 11. I am thinking of retiring Jan. 2017, and going from full time to part time at my job. If so I would be penalized by SS $7126 from my yearly SS payments. Would the withholding be at the start of 2018 or would it be at the end of 2017 and would they round the $7126 to 7 months worth and ignore the $126? Since I would continue paying SS tax on the income overage until age 66 wouldn’t I receive higher SS payments because of that once I turn 66? Also, do you know when is the law for the retirement age changing to 67 is taking place? Thank you. MP

    1. jblankenship says:

      Most likely the overage will be withheld from the following year’s first benefit checks. And the amount will not be rounded down, it would be rounded up.

      During this time your earnings could increase your benefit, but the withheld benefits will also increase your benefits. For every month that your benefit is withheld, your filing age is moved forward by a month. So if you have a total of 30 months of benefits withheld (for example) during the time before you reach FRA, once you reach FRA your filing age will be moved forward from age 62 to age 62 plus 30 months, which would be age 64 and 6 months.

      The Full Retirement Age is age 66 for anyone born between 1946 and 1954, so your FRA will be 66. Beginning with birth year of 1955 the FRA increases by 2 months each year, until the birth year of 1960 at which point the FRA is 67 for all birth years thereafter (under current law).

  4. jean labus says:

    Hello John interesting articles. I have a question my husband filed and suspended his social security in march 2016 at age 66 and i am thinking about taking my railroad retirement in sept while still working at age 66 . which is about 1700 a month. his is higher , is he entitled to any of mine while his is suspended. Please let us know . thanks very much jean

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, having suspended his benefit your husband is not eligible for spousal benefits if his benefit is greater than half of yours.

      1. jean says:

        ok reply to this answer if jean doesnt take her railroad retirement can i apply for a restricted application under his suspend app. at 66 and receive half of his under social security.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, at age 66 the wife could file a restricted application to receive spousal benefits based on her husband’s suspended record.

          1. JEAN says:

            Dear john lol may be a silly question but i need to know , now that he suspended his ss. does that mean his monthly check stays the same every month or increases at 8 percent or every month does his amount go into a account upon death or 70 years old. Thank you

          2. jblankenship says:

            Suspending benefits allows the individual’s record to earn the delay credits, so that when the “suspend” is lifted the benefits that he will receive are increased by 2/3% for every month of delay or suspension.

  5. Daniel says:

    Hi John,

    Really appreciate the info. Here is my client’s situation. The husband and primary age earner is 75. He has been taking SSI for 5 years. The wife is 62 and is curious what would be best and if the new ruling effects her. She was born before 1954 so I don’t believe it was.

    Should she or can she “File and Restrict” without being FRA? If so, would her spousal benefit be discounted due to not being FRA? If she can do this, would she still be eligible for her full benefit at age 66?

    I’d appreciate your thoughts!

    Daniel

    1. jblankenship says:

      Again with John. That fella isn’t pulling his weight around here! :)

      No, she cannot file a restricted application before she’s at FRA. I believe that makes all of your other questions moot.

      If she files for anything prior to FRA she will be deemed to have filed for all available benefits, and she’ll receive (effectively) the larger of her own reduced benefit or the reduced spousal benefit.

  6. Glo says:

    My ex-spouse (married to him for 15 years) took ss at age 66 (FRA). I am turning 66 this year(FRA). His FRA benefit is $400 now. Mine would be $1200 this year at FRA 66. My benefit at age 70 is $1600 . Can I restrict mine to age 70 and be qualified to get half his benefit this year?

    1. Glo says:

      P.s. Both born before 1954

      1. Glo says:

        Question: Once the restricted application is filed, must I wait to age 70 to take my own benefit or can I take it at anytime before I reach 70?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Any time. You could conceivably file for your own benefit the next month if you wanted to.

    2. jblankenship says:

      Yes, you should be able to do this.

  7. Jim says:

    I will be 65 this May and still work. My wife will be 64 this November and she will continue to work for 2-3 more years. Can I file for social security now based on my wifes ss and hold off filing for my own until I am at least 66 or older? This way my wife can plan on getting to age 70 to file.

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, what you’re describing is a restricted application, and in order to file a restricted application you must have been born before 1954, be at Full Retirement Age (66) and your wife must file for her benefits. At this point you couldn’t file a restricted application because you’re not at FRA, and you indicate that your wife is hoping to delay her benefit to age 70.

  8. Larry Vines says:

    Jim
    My wife filed when she was 65 and receives 940 per month. I just hit FRA in March and would receive 2,400 if I filed now. I am still working full time and plan to let it grow to age 70. My questions below
    1: If i file and suspend does that stop me from filling restricted for spousal benefit
    2: Is file and suspend the only way to preserve the lump sum back if I elected to file at later date and select FRA as start date.
    3:If I do not file and suspend but do file the restricted for spousal will that effect my HSA plan. Also would the spousal be reduced if I make over the top tier at current job.
    Thank you for your insight!
    Larry

    1. jblankenship says:

      1 – Yes. File & suspend and restricted application are mutually exclusive. If you file & suspend you cannot file a restricted application later.
      2 – Yes
      3 – Yes. If you’re receiving Social Security benefits and you’re over age 65 you are automatically enrolled in Medicare, and being enrolled in Medicare disallows contributions to an HSA plan.
      3b – No. There is no earnings test after FRA.

      1. Larry Vines says:

        Thank you Jim
        For max benefits see if this makes sense
        1: I file and suspend now at 66
        2: wife does the one time do over
        3: She files restricted application at FRA for spousal benefit.
        4: We both collect at age 70
        Thanks again for your insight

        1. jblankenship says:

          The only problem with your plan is if your wife has been receiving benefits for more than 12 months. If this is the case she could not withdraw her application and pay back benefits (the “do over”). This would eliminate #2 and #3 from your plan. If it’s been less than 12 months, the plan you have laid out should work just fine.

          1. Larry says:

            It is less than 12 months
            Thank you for the info you provide!

  9. bob swahn says:

    I’m 63 and not taking any ss benefits. My wife is 56. We both currently work and plan to keep working. What would be best for us Thanks

    1. jblankenship says:

      Neither file & suspend nor restricted application is available to you. With regard to “what would be best?”, you need to review your overall situation with a qualified advisor who can help you discover the “best” option for your unique situation. That is, of course, unless you fully understand how it all works and can do the analysis yourself. The limited information you’ve provided is only a small part of what’s necessary to determine “what would be best”.

  10. Linda Duval d'Adrian says:

    Jim – Like so many others asking you questions, I wanted to do a double check also. My husbad took his social security at 62 and turned 66 last year. I lost my job back in October at the age of 65, but I am holding off on applying for social security until a month or so before my birthday on August 17th when I will be 66. So I plan to file a restricted application for half of the husband’s social security he would have received at age 66. At age 70 I will switch over to my own social security which will have grown by 8% a year. Since my husband is already receiving his social security, he does nothing. Sound correct? Thank you so much!!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that’s correct. See the article Restricted Application – the Definitive Guide for everything you need to know about restricted applications.

  11. Jerry Hansen says:

    Jim,
    Our strategy included my wife filing for her benefits at 65, my filing and suspending at 66, then doing a restricted application for spousal benefits from her. We planned to keep this going until we both turn 70 this year, then switch to my drawing my own benefit and her drawing spousal benefit. Will we have any deemed filing rule problems? We were both born in 1946. Will her spousal benefit be half of my total at 70 or half of what I would have received at FRA? How about survivor benefit?

    Thanks,

    Jerry

    1. jblankenship says:

      If your wife filed at age 65 she has already reduced her own benefit by as much as 6.67%. Whatever that dollar figure is will also follow through and be subtracted from the spousal benefit that she would receive upon your filing at age 70.

      For example, if she was eligible for $1,000 at FRA and she filed at age 65 this would give her approximately $933.33 per month (6.67% reduction). If then upon your filing the potential spousal benefit for her was $1,200, the actual total benefit she’d receive would be $1,133.33 – the potential benefit minus her reduction for early filing.

      The spousal benefit is based upon your PIA, which is the amount of benefit you would have received at FRA.

      FYI – if you are receiving a spousal benefit via a restricted application, you did not file & suspend (as you stated in your first sentence). File & suspend eliminates the option for a restricted application, as is spelled out in the article.

      jb

  12. Edward says:

    Jim,
    Firstly, let me commend you for providing such knowledgable service to all of us who are so confused.
    My Situation: I am 68yrs.old. My wife is 62 as of Oct 2015 and
    (primary wage earner). As such I understand that we fall into the category of being ‘grandfathered’ into the Plan before changes were made in the Budget Act Nov.2015.
    My Plan: File and Suspend now, before April30 2016 (at age 68) and wait till 70 to maximize my benefits. My wife’s plan is then to file at age 66 (FRA) in 4 years, and ‘restrict application for spousal benefits’ on my record till she reaches 70.
    Is the correct path? Or does my wife need to file and declare her intentions NOW, prior to Apr.30 2016 to lock in her ‘grandfathered status?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife would do nothing until she reaches FRA, in October 2019, in order to complete the plan as you’ve outlined. Unless the law changes, it is solely her date of birth that is needed for her to be grandfathered into the option of filing a restricted application at her FRA.

      FYI – the only benefit to your file & suspend at this point is to protect the option to pick up the lump sum of benefits at some later point if you choose to do so. Otherwise there is nothing gained by suspending, you could just wait until 70 and file.

  13. Sharon Ward says:

    Jim: Good grief!!! In the last post I meant FRA (not PIA)!! Thanks again.

  14. Sharon Ward says:

    Jim: I forgot to ask you one more important question. When my husband does apply for spousal benefits today (mine was the last question before this one) should he have them start in March or April? He turned 66 on March 11. We want to avoid deeming so would March be considered before his PIA? Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      He cannot have a restricted application start before FRA, so he would have them start at the earliest in March. There’s no gain to delaying this to April.

  15. Sharon Ward says:

    My husband turned 66 on March 11. I am 65, but I started collecting Social Security when I was 62 years 8 months. He is planning on collecting spousal benefits now on my earnings and let his own SS build up at 8% per year. When we go to the SS office today (Friday 3/18) does he just need to file for his spousal benefits on a Restricted Application or does he first/also need to file and suspend his own benefits? We got some advice, but I don’t think it’s correct from all that I have read. We want to avoid any possible chance of deeming. Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Just file for spousal benefits via a restricted application. File & suspend would completely derail your plans.

  16. Joan Alexander says:

    My husband turns 66 On July 3,2016 Does he miss the cut off according to the new law that ends on April29 for file and suspend? I am his wife an turn 65 April 2016.Should I wait till I am 66 to file a restricted application?

    2) When can my mentally ill adult child age 31 file for ssB? he was diagnosed before age 22 with his illness which prevents him from working. Does my adult child have to wait for my husband to file to collect benefits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, your husband cannot file and suspend under the old rules.

      You cannot file a restricted application until your husband files

      You’ll need to get in touch with SSA to see if your child can be eligible for disability benefits. Otherwise, he’d need to wait until someone (you or your husband) files for benefits and then if he qualifies he may be eligible for dependents’ benefits.

  17. Bob Charron says:

    Jim,
    Thanks for clearing some of this up. I would like your opinion if possible.
    I just turned 66 February 2016. I am still working and expect to for several years. My SS benefit will be $2500 according to just received SS statement. I plan to delay benefits until 70. I have not filed anything at this point.
    My wife is 68 and has been taking her SS benefit for the last 6 years (She filed at age 62). I think she gets about $980 per month. The fact that she started early (62) clouds the issue for me.
    I believe I have a couple of options here.
    1) Can I file & suspend & she files for spousal benefit which is 50% of my $2500 ($1,250) even though she is currently collecting her SS? She would stop her $980 & start $1,250 under my SS?
    2) I file a restricted application for spousal benefit which is 50% of her $980 & she continues to collect her benefit. I ONLY collect a spousal benefit & my SS continues to grow.
    It seems #2 is the best option. Would she continue to get her benefit and I receive half of hers with restricted application? Do I need to do anything else (file & suspend)?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Taking your questions by number:

      1) Yes, she could begin collecting a spousal benefit under those circumstances, but it’s probably not going to amount to an increase for her. Because she filed for her own benefit already, her own benefit was reduced from an amount that is probably more than the $1,250 in spousal benefits. Her own benefit does not stop in a case like this – it continues, reduced. And then the spousal benefit is only the excess amount that is greater than her own unreduced benefit.
      2) Yes, this is the alternative option and is the only one that results in increased benefits for you as a couple. Your spousal benefit will be based on her unreduced benefit, which I guessed at approximately $1,300 – so the spousal would be approximately $650.

  18. Calee says:

    Thanks Jim for for your expertise and informational advice . I turned 62 in 2015 and will receive $901.00 at FRA. John turned 62 in 2016 and will receive $2,215.00. I realize the options available and I will be grandfathered in . Our age is my concern and a few questions and hoping this will help in our concerns. We both hope to wait till FRA of 66.
    1) Can John gain anything from my options?
    2) Do I need to apply for a restricted application now or wait till John’s FRA of 66? Also what would I do if he works longer? I am hoping to draw a spousal benefit and maybe hold mine till age 70??
    3) Any other strategy is appreciated!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering your questions by number:
      1) No
      2a) You can’t file a restricted application until a) you’re at or older than FRA; and b) your husband has filed for his benefit.
      2b) If he has not filed for his benefits you cannot file a restricted application, so if he works longer and does not file for benefits, you have to wait as well.
      2c) You can if he has filed and you’re over FRA – but not before.
      3) I have nothing further to offer you.

  19. Maura says:

    Hi John. I will be 66 on March 25, 2016. I am still working, so we do not need to collect at this point. My husband will be 66 in July of 2017. He is working part-time. Our plan is to go to the SSA and “File & Suspend.” Our understanding is that since my husband is not 66, he cannot receive a spousal benefit. Can he file for the spousal benefit when he turns 66 in July of 2017? Is this the optimal strategy? Thank you for your valuable advice!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, (I’ll reply for whoever “John” is) your strategy should work just fine.

  20. Tom Czechowski says:

    I am 72 and have been receiving SS benefits since I turned 66 which was my full retirement age (FRA). I currently receive about $2400 a month in benefits. My wife, who just signed up for Medicare but not for SS benefits, will reach her FRA of 66 in April 2017 and will be eligible to receive about $2000 a month in benefits at that time. My understanding is that she cannot claim a spousal benefit because her SS monthly benefit ($2000) is more than $1200 (one-half of my monthly benefit.) If that is true, is there anything we can do to increase the amount of her benefits beyond what she would currently be entitled to at her FRA?

    Thanks so much for your help in understanding this most complicated issue.
    Tom

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife could file a restricted application for spousal benefits only upon reaching age 66. This would allow her to receive 50% of your benefit until she decides to file for her own benefit. For each year that she delays her own benefit, it will grow by 8%. So for example if she waits until age 67, her own benefit would have grown to $2,160, and she would have been receiving $1,200 per month between age 66 and age 67.

  21. Paddy says:

    I am currently 64 and my wife is 63. I do not plan on taking benefits until at least age 66. At age 66 my benefit is estimated to be $2663 per month. If my wife took reduced benefits now based on her earnings history and age she would get approximately $682. Can she take this benefit now under her earning history and take benefits as a spouse using my benefit at a later date? If eligible to do this she did this at age 66 would she get half of my benefit or approximately $1330 per month?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, she can do as you describe. The amount of the eventual spousal benefit will be less than half of your benefit by virtue of the fact that she has filed for her own benefit early. Whatever the dollar reduction is from her FRA benefit to the benefit she gets at her current age, subtract that from 50% of your benefit and that’s the final amount she could receive at her FRA.

      jb

  22. Aaron says:

    So at FRA I simply file and then tell them I don’t want my benefits now but want them to grow? What is that called? (It sounds like suspending benefits.) Do I start this process at 65 or 66? Born sept 1952. THanks again

    1. jblankenship says:

      You do nothing at FRA. Don’t file. Don’t suspend. DON’T DO ANYTHING. And you can start right now, because you’re not going to do anything, except to wait for your wife to file. Then you can file a restricted application. Then at 70 you can file for your own benefit.

  23. Jeff says:

    Hello Jim,

    I went to SS office in January and informed the rep I wanted to file and suspend. I turn 66 in March 2016. She did the paperwork, however, nothing showed filed and suspend. She said I would receive a letter from SS at a later date indicating this has occurred. I called back at a later date to be sure since the paper I was given read benefits would start in March (they do not have my bank account information) and the rep said not to worry that the file and suspend request was sent to another unit which takes care of the matter. Before March came in I made a third call to SS and spoke with another rep who said the request would be completed, however, it usually takes about six weeks. Does any of this make sense, Jim, and is the normal protocol?

    Also, in March 2017 when my wife files for the restricted application when she turns FRA, can I, if I so desire, one day later when I turn 67 request to receive my SS benefit. I do plan to go longer, but just checking on the procedure.

    Thanks so much for your expertise, Jim.

    Regards,
    Jeff

    1. jblankenship says:

      I don’t work for SSA, so I don’t know what the workload is like and how many units a request has to go through. I suggest remaining patient and take action if things get fouled up. You’ve submitted your paperwork so you’re in the system in plenty of time. So relax. Calling them repeatedly will not make it go faster.

      With regard to your last question – there’s no requirement that your benefit is suspended in order for your wife to file a restricted application. The operative fact is that you’ve filed at some point before or at the same time as her restricted application. The “suspend” only allows you to accrue the delay credits – it has nothing to do with your wife’s ability to collect a spousal benefit via restricted application.

  24. Aaron says:

    So at FRA in 2 years I file and suspend to take the extra 8% per year.
    5 months later at FRA my wife files for her benefit. At that time I then file a restricted Application to receive half of her benefit.
    Then at 70, I stop the suspension and then receive my full benefit. Is this correct?
    Thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      YOU DO NOT WANT TO FILE AND SUSPEND. You even mentioned this in your own earlier message, that you are not eligible for the file & suspend strategy.

      Your benefit will grow after your full retirement age simply by virtue of the fact that you are not receiving benefits based on your own record and you’re over FRA. When your wife files for her own benefit, you can file a restricted application. Then at 70 you would file to receive your own benefit.

  25. Tom Hewitt says:

    Hi Jim:
    I think I understand the process but I’d like you to verify for me. I’m 67 and my wife will be 65 in Sept. In order to maximize our resources, I believe I should “File and Suspend” to get started since I want to continue working. My wife can then file a Restricted Application. She will not receive any benefits until she reaches her FRA. Correct, or does it start immediately? If I file for benefits at age 68 or so, does she still receive half of my benefits?
    Thank you for your time.
    tom

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife would not file a restricted application until she reaches Full Retirement Age. Then she’ll receive a spousal benefit of 50% of your age 66 benefit. You can start your benefits (un-suspend) at any time, it will not change her spousal benefit amount.

      jb

  26. ALF says:

    I have a client whose ex-husband turned 66 earlier this month. She does not turn 66 until July of this year. Is she able to file now and collect 1/2 of her ex-husbands benefit while allowing her own benefit to grow until she reaches age 70

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, she would need to wait until she reaches FRA. However, at FRA she should be eligible for a survivor benefit (assuming she was married to the late ex-husband for 10 or more years). The survivor benefit would be equal to 100% of the benefit that the ex was receiving (or was eligible to receive if he was not receiving a benefit currently).

  27. After your reply to my qn Feb 6, I started the process for filing with Restricted benefit. My wife is already receiving full SS benefits. I turned 66 in Jan. SSA told me that I need to file just forSpousal benefits and not file for mine at all now. Then when I turn 70 1/2 I can file for myslef and get the increased amount. They said it was not necessary to file with Restricted benefits. I am confused and uneasy and don’t want to make a mistake. To be sure I have set up a personal appointment. Any advise?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The SSA was describing a restricted application. It’s all the same thing. Don’t ask to apply for restricted benefits – ask to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only.

  28. DP says:

    My husband & I are both turning 64 in 2016. And expect to work until 68 or so. Are we eligible for file & suspend or should we do file & restrict at age 66

    Thanks

    1. jblankenship says:

      You cannot file & suspend if you are under full retirement age.

      Since you will not be at FRA until some time after April, 2016, you will be subject to the new file & suspend rules, so you’re probably not going to want to file & suspend when you reach FRA.

  29. Aaron says:

    I am 5 months older than my wife and we are now both 63. We can’t file and suspend, but we can do Restricted Application.
    Her benefit is a little less than half of mine. Can we both file restricted returns and still collect half of the each others, or is this only available for 1 filing a restricted Application?
    If I file a restricted application at FRA to let mine grow, can I then 5 months later collect a spousal benefit from her filing at FRA while she gets her full amount and I would get half of hers while mine grows?
    When I die, would she get my benefit with any 8% gains or simply what I would have gotten at 66?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Both of you cannot file a restricted application at the same time.

      If she files for her own benefit at FRA, you could then file a restricted application to receive 50% of her benefit – you would not file the restricted application 5 months before her reaching FRA. Your benefit (under this scenario) will continue to grow.

      If you die before you start receiving benefits (at age 70) your wife will be eligible for a survivor benefit based upon your attained age as of your death.

      jb

  30. Beverly says:

    my husband has not applied for his Social security he is all most 69 because he is 100% disabled through VA. My question if something happens to him can I get his SS.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, the survivor benefit from a record that is not currently being paid is based upon the attained age of the individual whose record it is, upon their death.

      In other words, if your husband passed away at age 69 you would receive a survivor benefit based upon his attained age of 69.

      jb

  31. Jim says:

    My wife and I both intend to hold off on filing for full SS benefits until we turn 70. My wife filed and suspended upon reaching FRA; I now receive about 1/2 of what she would have received had she filed for full SSA benefits.

    I turn FRA in June. If I file a Restricted app then, WHO will recieve what portion of which spouses benefit? FYI my full benefit is about 40% greater than hers. Thanks in advance for your reply – I am still confused by how to maximize the payout.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’ve confused me – you say you’re receiving 1/2 of your wife’s FRA benefit amount? How? When did you file for benefits (what age)?

  32. Liz says:

    I am age 63. My spouse is age 67. Neither one of us is receiving social security benefits yet. In order to maximize benefits, I still don’t get it as to who and when to file for spousal benefit.
    Should I file a restricted application and also file for spousal benefit now? Or, should my spouse file a restricted application and file for spousal benefit now? Or, should my spouse file and suspend so I can file for spousal benefit now?
    Help!

    1. jblankenship says:

      1) You can’t file a restricted application now. You must be at least age 66 to do so.
      2) Your wife can’t file a restricted application now, because YOU would need to be receiving benefits in order for her to do so.
      3) A restricted application IS an application for spousal benefits (these are not two different things, as you are implying in your questions).
      4) Your wife could file and suspend now, but if your own benefit is larger than 50% of her Primary Insurance Amount, then you would not receive a spousal benefit at all. In addition, you would be permanently reducing your benefit by filing before FRA.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  33. Mark says:

    Hi Jim,

    My Dad was born Feb 1952 and my Mom July 1953. My Dad has filed mid 2015 and receives a reduced benefit. Will my mom be able to file for a restricted application in 2019 at FRA and receive 50% of his reduced benefit while her benefit grows each year?

    Other then the impact of the reduced benefit, was there anything they missed out on by my Dad filing early? If so, is it possible for him to payback what he received and start over?

    Thank you for all your help,

    Mark

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unless the rules change again before 2019 the strategy you have outlined should work.

      Without knowing the amounts of benefits for your folks it’s impossible to know whether another strategy could be more advantageous.

      jb

  34. Judy Wylene-Hubbard says:

    JBWYLENE@YMAIL.COM
    Judy Wylene-Hubbard
    No websitE

    I receive SSDI. If I suspend SS retirement benefits until age 70, will SSDI payments continue?

    1. jblankenship says:

      When you reach Full Retirement Age your Disability benefit switches over to become a Retirement benefit – and it is this switch which makes the “suspend” available to you. Therefore, if you suspend your benefit, you will no longer receive a benefit until you un-suspend later.

      jb

  35. Lane Ralph says:

    I don’t really understand the restricted application. My wife, age 67 is already getting her social security which she started at 66. I am only 64 (66 on 9/2017) and have not yet applied. Can I apply now under restricted application (before May 1, 2016 deadline in new SS Law) and I her/my spousal amount and delay my full benefits until I am 70, or are we no longer eligible ( or never were) to file a restricted application. Should I just take my retirement at 66? That is the question. Will getting the spousal amount affect my wife’s social security payment? Those are our questions. I am the larger PIA benefit earner and my wife has a lesser PIA amount.

    1. jblankenship says:

      There is nothing for you to do before April 30, 2016: you’re not eligible, and your wife has already filed, so unless your wife wants to stop receiving benefits to accrue delay credits, there’s nothing to be done at present.

      If you want to delay your own benefit to age 70, you could file a restricted application effective when you reach Full Retirement Age, which would provide you with a benefit equal to 50% of your wife’s benefit. This has no effect on your wife’s benefit.

      jb

  36. Cal says:

    So, if I understand you correctly, filing a restricted application does not require a “file and suspend” but can be either a “file and suspend” or a simple “file”. (I thought it required the file and suspend but I’m hoping I was wrong.) My wife and I have both passed FRA and she filed at FRA but I’ve been waiting until age 70. I have not filed for anything yet. Can I file a restricted application to get 1/2 or her SS amount without losing my 8% per year?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that’s absolutely correct. Restricted app only requires that the other spouse has filed, suspend has nothing to do with the restricted app.

      jb

  37. Bob Powers says:

    Hi Jim,
    In a prior post I had a senior moment and called you John, but hopefully I’m allowed a follow-up to your December 30, 2015 response. Here goes:
    Is there any downside, other than the technical exception you detailed in your Jan 25 write-up, for me (currently 66 and 5 months with a FRA benefit of $2,755) to file and suspend prior to April 30, 2016 with the intent that my spouse (currently 63 and 10 months with a FRA benefit of $2,335) will file a restricted application (is the application filed at the time she reaches FRA?) for spousal benefits only when she reaches FRA? I believe I can always un-suspend at any time and begin monthly benefits at that specific time or retrieve foregone benefits in a lump sum and begin monthly benefits at my FRA rate. Right? And my spouse can revoke her restricted application any time after her FRA, and begin a benefit based on her own work record. Right?
    And finally, if I elect to un-suspend, can my spouse continue to receive spousal benefits under her restricted application until she reaches 70? Although, I suspect since my monthly benefit is greater than my spouse, it might be more advantageous to not un-suspend my benefit but rather have my spouse take her monthly benefit and let mine continue to accumulate.
    Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Taking your questions one-by-one:
      No, there is no other downside to file & suspend that I’m aware of.
      Yes, you can always unsuspend as you have described.
      Yes, your wife can file for her own benefit at any time after filing the restricted app.
      Yes, your wife’s restricted application has nothing to do with your suspended benefit – it is the “filing” part that allows her the restricted app option.

      jb

  38. Paul says:

    Hi Jim –

    I reached FRA this past December. My wife doesn’t reach FRA until next June. With the law changes, can I file and suspend, and she file a restricted application next June, and both of us earn delayed retirement credits while she receives spousal benefits?

    Obviously both of us are born before 1952 – not sure how the would impact our situation. I tried reading through as many comments to see if this was asked.

    Great work and we all appreciate it!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that strategy should work just fine.

      1. DGG says:

        I’ve come across several scenarios asked and answered that are close to my question, but not quite. My husband is 68 and has not filed. We were planning for him to delay till age 70. I will be 64 in November. His FRA benefits will be near the maximum possible. Any SS benefits I would collect on my own record would be very small, so spousal benefits will always be larger.

        I would like to collect spousal benefits before my FRA, but I would like to wait till Dec. or Jan. to file. I understand that he would have to file and suspend before the end of April for me to be able to claim benefits based on his record. But- do I HAVE to also put in a claim for spousal benefits before the end of April, or lose the ability to collect them until my own FRA?

        I understand that in our situation, what I would actually be doing is claiming all the benefits to which I’m entitled early: a combo of my own and “excess spousal”, both of which would be reduced permanently because of filing before FRA.

        When I called social security to ask about this, I was told that if I didn’t apply for spousal benefits by the end of April deadline, I could not receive them at all until FRA, even if my husband did file and suspend before the deadline.

        This doesn’t sound right to me. She also kept talking about the restricted application, which isn’t a strategy that has any benefit for us.

        I just want to know: If my husband files and suspends now, can I apply for my own and spousal benefits after April 30 but before my FRA? With the understanding that the amount I would get would be based on my own reduced amount plus a reduced amount of spousal?

        Thank you so much…
        DGG

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, since your husband has filed for benefits (the fact that he suspended has no bearing on your spousal benefit) you are eligible to file for spousal benefits at any time. If you do so before your FRA, as you stated you’ll be filing for all available benefits, and all are reduced. But the timing can be any time you wish, the April 30 deadline is only pertinent to your husband’s suspending of his benefits.

  39. Nick D says:

    I would qualify for file and suspend or restricted application before the April 30 deadline. How do I “run the numbers” to see which one offers the highest benefit?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Determine the benefit amounts for each of you, both now and in the future, under the two scenarios and plot them on a spreadsheet.

  40. Great information. I am eligible still for the either file and suspend or restricted filing. In reading the SSA information, the way I understand, in the Files and Suspend case, the spouse will get the higher of the 50% spousal amount or her own benefit. Is this right? On the restricted filingI read in one of your answers that this doesn’t apply. I looked but may have missed the answer on the File and Suspend case. Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      File and suspend only enables the other spouse to sometime file for spousal benefits – it has nothing to do with the amount of benefit that the other spouse may or may not receive.

      Filing a restricted application will result in (generally) a spousal benefit equal to 50% of the PIA of the other spouse.

      If a spouse is eligible for a spousal benefit and his or her own benefit at the same time and does not file a restricted application, effectively he or she will only receive the larger of his or her own benefit or the spousal benefit.

      jb

  41. Jeff says:

    And does she receive a reduced spousal benefit since he received SS at age 62 or does she get a full benefit somehow?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Spousal benefit, if taken when she reaches FRA or older, will be based upon 50% of the spouse’s unreduced benefit.

  42. Jeff says:

    My friend’s husband is 67 and will be 68 this year. He started receiving SS at age 62. My friend will be 65 in March 2016. Does she have the option of filing a restricted application for spousal benefits when she reaches FRA in 2017 based upon her husband’s reduced benefits which began when he was 62?

    Thanks, Jim, for your answer.

  43. Corazon Gagnon says:

    I am retiring in Jan.2017 and I will be 62 this Sept.2016 how will this H.R.1314 affects me. I am so confused and what will I do to lock into that social security benefits before it takes effect in May 2016?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Since you were born in 1954 or later, none of the benefits that have changed will be available to you. Those options were grandfathered only for folks born in 1953 or earlier.

      jb

  44. Tom Czechowski says:

    Wow. I wish I would have contacted you several years ago. Anyway, here’s our situation. I applied for and have been receiving my full retirement benefit once I reached my full retirement age. My wife, however, will not reach her full retirement age until April 4, 2017. Any thoughts on a strategy which may be helpful in this situation? Can she apply now for a spousal benefit? Can she file a restricted application after she reaches her FRA? Please help us understand this mess. Thanks so much.
    Tom and Donna

    1. jblankenship says:

      In answer to your questions – Yes, your wife could file for a spousal benefit now, but the spousal benefit and her own benefit would be reduced, such that effectively she would only receive the larger of the two reduced benefits.

      She could also wait until she reaches Full Retirement Age and file solely for the spousal benefit, delaying her own benefits until some later point, as late as age 70, to achieve the delay credits.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  45. Michael Rouffa says:

    Well, now I know the answer to my question. Restricted application is out for my wife.

  46. Michael Rouffa says:

    I am currently 66, my wife is 61.

    I’ll “file and suspend” before 4/30/16, then delay collecting my benefits until 70.

    Then can my wife file a restricted application at 66 (I’ll already be receiving my benefits) to receive 1/2 of my FRA benefits, then at 70 file for her own benefits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      No – anyone born in 1954 or later is not eligible to file a restricted application.

  47. Miriam says:

    Thank you.

    One last question. Based on your article entitlted “The Death of File & Suspend and RA,” you mention some facts which make me wonder:

    Since my husband did pay into SS long enough to have approx $400 a month accrue to his benefit (age 62 or 66, not sure), would it be possible for him to file and suspend at any time or file a Restricted Application so I could draw spousal? I realize since he is still working and earns too much, he would not be able to keep any of his SS under the Restricted Application, but I’m thinking perhaps I could gain spousal and wait till 70 to file for my benefit.

    Thank you for your help!

    1. jblankenship says:

      If your husband will be at or older than 66 years of age as of April 30, 2016, he could file & suspend as you suggest. If he was born at some time after April 30, 1950 though, your suggestion will not be available to you.

      jb

  48. Claire says:

    Jim, Thank you again for taking your valuable time to enlighten us about the different options with SS
    Just to be clear with my situation_I file for my reduced benefit, my spouse files restricted so his benefit grows and he receives spousal benefit based on 50% of my PIA as he is 66. Should we file at different times or together? Does this make a difference? Thank you for your help!!

    Claire

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that strategy is what I was suggesting. You can both file at the same time – he won’t be eligible for the restricted application until you file for your benefit, so he has to wait until you’ve filed, but filing at the same time has the same effect.

      jb

  49. Claire says:

    Jim, First thanks for explaining what SS does not. My spouse is FRA eff 1/16, I am 63 1/2. Because his benefit is much larger and to protect me,he wants to file and suspend letting his grow and I will file to collect my reduced benefit in April and he will collect 1/2 of my full benefit because he is 66. If he passes can I continue w/ my reduced benefit and switch to his in 2020 when his would max out
    Do either of us have to use restricted application
    Thanks again

    1. jblankenship says:

      If your spouse wants to collect a spousal benefit based on your record HE ABSOLUTELY DOES NOT WANT TO FILE AND SUSPEND. Doing so will eliminate his ability to file a restricted application. His benefit will continue to grow (since he has not filed) and he can file for it at any point later up to age 70 to achieve the delay credits of 8% per year.

      Regarding your second question, if he were to pass away prior to his filing at age 70, unfortunately his benefit will stop growing as of the date of his death. If you’re still under age 66 upon his passing you could continue receiving your own benefit until you reach age 66 – at that point your survivor benefits would be maxed out, assuming you were under age 66 when he passed. If you were over age 66 when he passed, you should switch to survivor benefits immediately, as that benefit will not grow any more (other than potential annual cost-of-living adjustments).

      jb

  50. Miriam says:

    Jim, could you answer a couple questions for me, please.

    My husband (age 62 in July 2015) works a government job and does not have a lot of social security coming. He does not pay into it. He makes about $60,000 a year, which I guess means he makes too much money to actually keep spousal benefits if he received any. He plans to retire at 66 or 67.

    I (age 62 in Nov 2015) have $700 coming if retired at 62, $900 at FRA and $1200 at age 70. I make $7,000 a year. I am essentially retired now but have not filed. I was planning to file and suspend at FRA, so he could apply for spousal. But with F&S not being a possibility, I’m not sure what to do. I think we just lost alot of money and that’s about it, right?

    Thank you for your help; I appreciate it very much.

    1. jblankenship says:

      I think you’re right, the rule changes has likely cost you a considerable amount, although if your husband was receiving his pension when he files for spousal benefits, it’s likely that the GPO would eat up the spousal benefit anyhow.

      So essentially you’re left with deciding when to apply for your own benefit – and that’s about all you can strategize about at this stage.

      jb

  51. Thomas C. Moore says:

    JIM, I have no idea at all where the “JOHN” came from. I do apologize!!
    Can’t thank you enough for the help. And not for just answering my question. By just reading through all the posts and your replies I found answers to questions I didn’t even know I should have been asking. It takes a lot of your free time to respond to these posts. Your time and being willing to share your knowledge is really appreciated. Thanks again.

  52. holly says:

    I have a special needs daughter age 40 who receives social security. is she still eligible for an additional social security based on our benefits…and if so, when do we do this. will she lose her own benefit, then?
    also, is there an ideal time to receive our benefits based on the impact of income taxes? holly

    1. jblankenship says:

      If your daughter became disabled before the age of 20 then she might be eligible for a benefit based on your record. I suggest speaking with SSA staff about this to understand the impact on your daughter’s benefits, both now and in the future.

      jb

  53. holly says:

    thanks so much jim…i wish you lived in pittsburgh!!!! you make the complex more clear!!!!

  54. holly says:

    jim….i don’t understand your calculations of the $2850/$3900..
    isn’t it $1900(mine at 66) + $1300 (half of my full benefit) = $3200 ….husband files restricted.
    OR $$2600 (his at 66) + $1750 (half of his full benefit) = $4350….i file restricted.

    maybe i have it mixed up!!!!! thanks for clearing it up for me. holly

    1. jblankenship says:

      Spousal benefit is always based on 50% of the PIA, which is the amount you would receive at Full Retirement Age. So if you file for your own at FRA and your husband takes spousal, the benefits would be $1,900 plus half of $1,900 ($950) which equals $2,850. Vice versa, if he files for his own and you take the spousal, the benefits would be $2,600 plus half of $2,600 ($1,300) which equals $3,900.

      jb

  55. holly says:

    one additional question….is it ever more financially beneficial to simply both wait until age 70 to begin to receive benefit….especially if , fortunately, we aren’t in desperate need for the social security benefit ….holly

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you live beyond approximately age 82, delaying both of your benefits to age 70 will pay off more benefits over your lifetimes.

      jb

  56. holly says:

    thanks jim…is it wiser financially for me (with the lower benefit) to begin to receive my benefit in May and then in November my husband file restricted and receive 50% of my full benefit? or the other way around where my husband receives his benefit at 66 and then i file restricted after he begins to receive benefit….holly

    1. jblankenship says:

      Typically when the ages are close like yours are, and there is a significant difference in the benefit levels, it makes the most sense to delay the higher benefit as late as possible. Taking the lower benefit along with spousal gives you a hedge against an earlier death.

      jb

  57. holly says:

    i will reach FRA on 5/15/16, my husband’s FRA is 11/7/16. i am retired; my husband will work until 11/2016. neither of us is receiving benefits at the moment, but would like to maximize our benefits. his full social security at age 70 would be $3500 and mine at age 70 is $2600. my benefit at age 66 is $1900; his at age 66 is $2600. what is best strategy? does he have to be receiving benefits for me to file restricted and receive 1/2 of his full benefit? thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      In your case the best option may be for one or the other of you to file for your benefits at FRA, and the other (when at FRA if it’s later) to file a restricted application, delaying his or her own benefit to age 70. This would provide you with a significant benefit right away (either $2,850 or $3,900 beginning later this year) and then a total of either $5,400 or $5,200 in 2020.

      jb

  58. Thomas C. Moore says:

    John, I have read thru all the posts and I can’t find one that answers the following scenario.

    My wife is 68 now and never worked so cannot file on her own. I will turn 65 in March (born in 1951) I am working and will most likely work until I turn 68 or 70. Since I have not reached FRA both the F&S and RA seem to be off the table for us. Should I go ahead and file now so she could start drawing benefits or should I wait until I reach FRA before filing. Of course I can’t get anything that would be considered an intelligent answer from the good people SS office. I have been researching this for a month or more and cannot find an answer to this situation. If I file now prior to FRA and continue to work, from what I a read her benefit, if I file would go away due to the fact I still have 45,000 yearly income.

    I could sure use some help. Your information has been the best I have found. So a really big thank you for all the questions you’ve answered and the great information provided.

    Thanks a million!!
    Tom

    1. jblankenship says:

      Once again, whoever John is – he gets all the accolades and I answer the questions.

      You have a choice to make – and that’s as easy as it gets. You can either file now and make your wife eligible for spousal benefits right away at the cost of your reduced benefit, or you can wait until you’re 66 (or older) to file, realizing that your own beneift will increase for every month that you delay your filing (but your wife’s spousal benefit will not increase). In addition, the longer you delay (and increase) your benefit, the greater the survivor benefit that your wife might receive if you die before she does.

      I can’t tell you what’s the best route for you – it depends as much on your perspective and needs for cash flow as anything.

      jb

  59. Ronald says:

    John, Good work!
    I started to receive SS benefits about a year and a half ago at age 65, current benefit is now about $2200. My spouse wants to retire in six months at age 64 years, 10 months, when her benefit would be about $1850. What would be the impact if she instead filed for spousal benefits at that time? or should she wait until she reaches FRA to file for spousal benefits and delay taking her own until age 70? Are there other strategies that we should consider? Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Again with John! That dude is not pulling his weight around here… :)

      If your wife filed for benefits at her age of 64y10m, she will not be eligible to receive spousal benefits since her own benefit is greater than 50% of yours and she’s under FRA at that point.

      A better option would be for her to wait until her FRA and file a restricted application for spousal benefits, delaying her own benefit to as late as age 70 to earn the delay credits.

      jb

  60. Harold says:

    Thanks, again, Jim. I really appreciate it.

  61. Glenn Panaro says:

    Hi Jim
    Your article on File & Suspend( F&S) , and Restricted Application (RA) are Not Equal was more informative than most. May I ask this question?
    I am turning 67 in May and have not collected SS benefits since I still work, My wife is turning 63 in March and also is still working. We are now ready to either retire or go part time. I am aware of the change in law effective April, 2016 and want to take advantage of the F&S, and RA loopholes. I also realize that my wife is subject to income penalties if she makes more than the threshold amount.

    Based on your article, it appears that for us it would be best for me to file and suspend so that my benefits can grow to I am 70 and my wife should file a restricted application allowing her to collect under a spousal and also continue to grow her benefits to 70. This allows me to create a higher benefit for my wife if I pass away before her. I realize that for the next 3 years I collect nothing but than in 3 years we have maximized our benefits for life.

    Please tell me if I am all wet or on the right track.
    Thanks,
    GAP

    1. jblankenship says:

      The one thing that you didn’t mention is that your wife will have to wait until she’s at FRA (age 66) to file the restricted application – so effectively you will not receive any benefits at all until 3 years from now, when you are 70 and she is 66. Otherwise I think you’re right on track!

      jb

  62. Harold says:

    Thanks, Jim, this is Harold with a follow-up to your response. I thought once I reach FRA this March that my wife could start collecting from my suspended benefit, but that she would get less than 50% of my benefit. Is that not the case? Does she have to wait until she reaches her FRA in May 2017 to start collecting from my benefit? If she can start collecting from my benefit before reaching her FRA, would she receive more social security that way than waiting to collect when she reaches her FRA? Thanks again.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If your wife files before she reaches FRA she will be collecting only (effectively) the larger of the spousal benefit or her own benefit, and each amount would be reduced. If she waits until FRA, she could file a restricted application for spousal benefits to receive the spousal benefit only (50% of yours) and then later at age 70 file for her own benefits.

      If she files earlier than FRA she won’t have the option to increase benefits later at age 70.

      jb

  63. Gerianne Imdieke says:

    My husband born 6/7/40, retired at age74, a little over 3 mo before his75th birthday. He began collecting his SS benefits several years after turning 65 but before retiring. He will turn76 in June 2016. I am still working full time & won’t reach full retirement age until 2/13/17 when I will turn 66. My full SS benefit will be greater than his. Are their any options available to us that would increase our SS retirement income?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You will likely have the option to file a restricted application for spousal benefits upon reaching your Full Retirement Age of 66. This will provide you with a benefit approximately equal to 50% of your husband’s benefit, while delaying your own benefit until age 70 to earn the delay credits at 8% per year.

      jb

  64. Misty says:

    I was thinking maybe I should do a restricted application before April 30. What should my husband do? Our SSA will be at FRA $1756/month.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You must be at or older than FRA (age 66 for you) to do a restricted application, and April 30 has nothing to do with your situation at all.

      You have not given enough details about your situation to determine a workable strategy.

  65. Misty says:

    My husband and I are 62 this year born in 1954. What should we do to increase our SSA benefits?

  66. Harold says:

    Jim, I remain confused over whether to file and suspend or submit a restricted application. My wife and I are both retired. My FRA is March 2016 and hers is May 2017. My estimated SS benefit is about $2,500/month and hers is about $2,200/month. Neither of us needs to collect before age 70 and we both have longevity in the family. Should one of us file and suspend or submit a restricted application? Which one? Why? Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you both want to delay benefits to age 70 but possible collect some benefit in the meantime, you only have one choice: you can file and suspend at your FRA (before April 30, 2016) and then when your wife reaches FRA she can file a restricted application for spousal benefits.

      There are no other options if you are intending to delay both of your benefits to age 70.

      jb

  67. dsr says:

    John, I will reach FRA on 4/30/16 and plan on working until at least 70. I am a divorced spouse meeting all necessary requirements for a restricted application. My ex-spouse was born in 1952; I do not know if he has applied for benefits at this time. Am I correct that:

    1.) I can file a restricted application to receive 1/2 of what will be his FRA benefit even if that is less that my FRA benefit?
    2.) If my health or work conditions change can I switch to my whatever my own benefit is at a later date?
    3.) Is there a risk that I would not be able to switch to my own enhanced benefit at age 70.
    4.) Is changing from the restricted application ex-spouse benefit to my own a difficult or problematic process?
    5.) I have read that this in no way impacts my ex-spouse. Is that correct?

    Thank you!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Not sure who John is. I hope you don’t mind me taking a stab at your questions (in order by number):

      1. Yes.
      2. Yes.
      3. There’s always the risk that Congress can change the rules again; we only work with the known at this point.
      4. No, you just submit an application for benefits.
      5. Correct.

      Hope this helps – jb

  68. April McDannell says:

    Jim,
    My husband and I are legally separated since 2007. He is now retired due to medical issues and is receiving 1600.00 a month from social security. He has been disabled since he was 62, in was born 10/1951. He was always the larger wage earner. I am 64 1/1952 and am working fulltime and want to work up to and maybe past 70. I called SSA and they told me I can draw 1/2 800.00 in Jan of 2017, since I will be 65. I will put mine on hold and it will earn interest at 8% per year. At age 70 it will cease to earn this 8%. I will be able to chose the higher one of the two when I retire.
    After reading the ruling HR 1314, I am concerned.
    Can you provide some insight into this.
    Thank you
    April

    1. jblankenship says:

      You should still be eligible for this strategy, even after the BBA 15 (HR 1314).

  69. ellen says:

    Hi Jim my sister in law has been telling me about this but it sounds too good to be true. My situation is as follows: my husband is 67 has been collecting ss since 66 he is also still employed 3 days a week. I will be 65 in june and would like to retire then. If I file a restricted application will I be able to collect half of my husband’s ss and allow my ss to grow 8% and start collecting at age 70? Thanks for your help this can be very confusing. ELLEN

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, you can do this- but you will have to wait until you are at Full Retirement Age (66) in order to file the restricted application. If you want to take advantage of this option you cannot receive any other benefit prior to Full Retirement Age.

      jb

  70. EMK says:

    Jim,
    For a couple with husband age 63 (7/1/52) and wife 58 (9/19/57) are either of the strategies available? If so, must they be set up now (or prior to the rule change) or do you have to wait until at least one spouse reaches Full Retirement Age? Husband has higher earnings record, so if either strategy is available what would benefit most?
    Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      The only option that you have available to you (beyond just delaying benefits) is a restricted application. In that scenario the husband could file a restricted application as soon as the wife files for benefits. If she files at her age 62, that means he’d be eligible to receive 50% of her unreduced benefit from that point until he reaches age 70.

      At any rate, nothing needs to be done now, you have this option available to you (assuming you’re the husband) for the rest of your life, or until the rules change again.

      jb

  71. Steve says:

    Jim,

    Lots of good info here but I haven’t seen anything that addresses our situation. Wife will soon be 67, does not have a work record to establish a benefit on her own. I will be 63 in April, am retired but have not filed. My understanding of all the recent changes is that we have lost file and suspend for me to allow her to draw a spousal benefit. As i understand she can’t do anything with a restricted application as she has no benefit and I haven’t filed. So I think we’re left with just deciding when to start my benefit and therefore her spousal benefit. My current thoughts are at FRA based on age difference. Our old plan was file and suspend to start her benefit and I would wait to 70.

    Anything I am missing or havewrong?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sounds like you understand the options available to you quite well, Steve. Of course, if you started your benefit early, at that point your wife could file for spousal benefits. But that would reduce your benefit permanently since you’re not eligible for the old-style file & suspend.

      jb

  72. patricia says:

    I’m still a little confused about the new changes to SS. I would really appreciate the answer to my question. My husband, who is still working, will turn 66 in August of 2016. I will turn 66 in May of 2018. I recently retired but am not receiving SS benefits. When he reaches FRA he can receive a benefit of $1921. per month. My benefit at FRA would be $2169. Will I be able to file a restricted application for benefits and receive spousal benefits at FRA while he collects his benefits at FRA?
    I appreciate any advice!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that strategy is available to you.

  73. DSFC says:

    I’m a widow and have been for 14 years, I’m 62 does any of this apply to me?

  74. Russell says:

    Jim, thanks for the clarification. My wife started receiving benefits in September at age 67. Her benefit is approximately $1000. I just reached FRA this month and am still working. My benefit would be about $2500. Does the fact that she has already filed prevent us from using either option or can she suspend her benefits, repay the amounts she has already received and then file a restricted application for spousal benefits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      It all depends on how you want to handle this. She could continue receiving her present benefit and you could file a restricted application, receiving 50% of her benefit, for a total household benefit of approximately $1,500. Then you would file for your own benefit at your age 70.

      Or, she could withdraw and repay her benefit, then you could file and suspend (before April 30, 2016), and she could file a restricted application to receive approximately $1,250 (half of yours). Then you would both file for your own benefits at age 70, at which time her benefit might be slightly more than the spousal benefit.

      If you take the first option you have $1,500 (approximately) for the next four years, and then you’d have $4,300 at your age 70, in total household benefits. If you take the second option, you’d have $1,250 for three years, possibly an increase at your wife’s age 70 (not much, if any) and then a total of $4,550 at your age 70, between the two of you.

      jb

  75. Cathy Rapple says:

    I will turn 62 next week, I no longer work in order to care for my mother in our home. My husband still works & will turn 67 in March. His social security payment if he were to take it now would be $2120 & at age 70 $2798. My soc sec payment at age 62 would be $963 at age 66 $1277 & age 70 $1686. Someone suggested that I file for my soc sec at 62 & my husband can get half of that amount & we put off taking his until he turns 70. If we can do that, can I then get half of my husbands payment or am I stuck with my payment when he turns 70. I don’t understand the difference between file & suspend and restricted application.Thanks for your help

    1. jblankenship says:

      Ok, so if you file for your benefit at age 62 you’ll take a reduction of just over $300 due to filing early. But your husband would be eligible to receive half of your unreduced amount, roughly $638, until he reaches age 70. This is known as a restricted application.

      Since your unreduced benefit is greater than half of your husband’s unreduced amount ($1,277 vs. $2,120) you would not receive any increase to your benefit upon your husband’s filing for his benefit. In your case, file & suspend is not a viable strategy due to the relative size of your benefit compared to your husband’s.

      jb

  76. Jesse H says:

    Thank you for the informative articles.

    I will reach FRA Jan. 2017 and my wife in May 2018. In 2018, if I file and suspend, will she still be able to file a restricted application and receive spousal benefits on my account, even if I have suspended (thus allowing both of our own benefits to max out when we each turn 70)? My reading suggests that if I suspend, it suspends ALL benefits on my account including spousal. Or is this restricted application still permitted under the grandfathering since both of us are born before 1954?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Restricted application is still available, just not under the circumstances you describe.

      As you have read, suspending your benefits (after April 30, 2016) results in suspending ALL benefits payable based on your earnings record. So if you wish to delay receipt of benefits based on your record, your wife will not be eligible for a restricted application until you file for your benefits at age 70, in January 2021. She could then file a restricted application to receive spousal benefits during the period from that point until she reaches age 70 and files based on her own record.

      Hope this is helpful –

      jb

  77. Richard Frisque says:

    I assume by now, that you are really tired of answering all these questions, but we are grateful for your patience. Here is our scenario: my wife reached FRA 3 days ago (1-13-15) and applied for SS benefits that will start next month (~$1500/mo). I plan to retire 12-31-16 but I will not reach FRA until 4-3-18 at which time my benefit would be ~$2600. However, I’d like to wait until I am 70 when my benefit would be ~3600. When I reach FRA can I file a restricted application and claim spousal benefits (~$750/mo) until I reach 70 years of age (and then apply for my own benefits)?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Thanks for the sentiment, Richard. I’m happy to know that my efforts are helping people in a real way.

      With regard to your question – yes, you can file a restricted application once you reach Full Retirement Age since you were born before 1954 (since the rule change a couple months ago). Then you can at age 70 file for your own benefit.

      jb

  78. Patti says:

    I am 58. My husband filed for social security benefits last year at age 65 and insisted I apply for spousal benefits and caretaker benefits for our child. I don’t know if it was restricted benefits or not but I certainly didn’t intend to negative
    effect my full retirement age benefits.
    If it wasn’t restricted to spousal benefit payout, can I repay what I’ve/we’ve received and then restrict benefits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      This is a different kind of benefit – not a spousal benefit but rather a young spouse caring for a child benefit. There is no negative effect to your future benefits, either on your own record or as a spouse, from receiving this young spouse benefit.

      jb

  79. Gerry Rexing says:

    Could use your advice. My wife is FRAge on 4/9/2016. Her FRAmount is about $1100. My FRAge is on 10/30/2016 and my FRAmount is $2600. We would like to maximize our SS income by delaying start of benefits until we are 70. Can we do the following:
    Do nothing on my wife’s 66th birthday.
    Can I File and Suspend on my 66th birthday in October 2016?
    If I can, then my wife would file for spousal benefits via Restricted Application. This would give her about $1300 (50% of my FRAmount) and we would then both file/start benefits when we reach our 70th birthdays.
    If this approach doesn’t work, what approach do you recommend given our interest in maximizing our benefits at age 70?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately the scenario you’ve described is not available to you, as the old style of file & suspend is no longer available after April 30, 2016.

      What you have left is essentially 3 options:
      1) both of you delay to age 70 and take no benefits in the meantime, or
      2) your wife could file and suspend at her age 66, then you could file a restricted application for spousal benefits based on her record when you reach age 66, or
      3) you could file for your own benefit at age 66, then your wife could file a restricted application for spousal benefits based on your record.

      Under the first option, you would not receive any benefits at all until you reach age 70. Both of your benefits would be maximized at that point.

      Under option 2, your wife would not receive any benefits until she reaches age 70, and you would receive 50% of her benefit for four years until you reach age 70. Both of your benefits would be maximized at that point, and you would have received ~$550 per month for four years in the interim.

      Under option 3, you would receive your own benefit beginning at age 66, your wife would receive 50% of your benefit for the 3 years and 6 months until she reaches age 70, and then she would receive her maximized benefit. Your benefit would not be maximized, but your wife’s would be, and you would have received a combined $3,900 per month for the intervening 3 years and six months.

      jb

  80. Big D says:

    Thanks for the input!
    Will my birth date of April 30 be an issue for file and suspend based on the new rules going into effect?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’m sure it will cause some conflict – I would contact SSA within the coming month or so to lay out your plans in order to make sure you’ll be able to file & suspend with your birthdate being 4/30 – and let me know how it goes, I’ll be interested in your interactions with SSA.

      jb

  81. Big D says:

    Help a confused soul.
    My wife turned 66 in December 2015 and has not filed yet. Her benefit (at 66) would be approx $1920. I turn 66 on April 30, 2016 and I have not filed yet. My benefit (at 66) is approx $2600. We have an appointment together with the SS office on Monday. We want to both receive spousal benefits until we turn 70, at which time we would request full benefits. What strategy do we need to take?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Only one of you is eligible to receive spousal benefits at a time. Sounds as if the best alternative for you might be if you file & suspend effective April 30, and then your wife could file a restricted application for spousal benefits. She would receive 50% of your benefit for the coming four years while delaying her benefit (you’re delaying yours as well), and then at age 70 you would both file for your own benefits.

      jb

  82. Bob P. says:

    John, I keep on reading but seem to get more confused with all the options and strategies available. Not sure I have seen one that is specific to my case. I am five months past my 66th birthday, retired, with a retirement benefit of $2,662 and have not filed for retirement benefits. My intent is to wait until 70, although if financial variables change, I could file earlier. My wife is 63, still working and will probably continue for another year, possibly two. Her retirement benefit at FRA is projected at $2,336. With the new law soon to be in effect, what strategy would best work to our advantage?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Not sure who John is, but I’ll give it a shot.

      Since you fit into the category that can use the old style file & suspend and your wife could possibly take advantage of it, you might file and suspend your benefits prior to April 30, 2016. This would then enable your wife to file for spousal benefits only (via a restricted application) when she reaches FRA. She could receive 50% of your FRA benefit (approximately $1,331) and then file for her benefits as late as age 70 when they would be maximized. You could wait to as late as age 70 as well.

      jb

  83. Robin says:

    Thanks for the article, very informative. I have a question: my spouse has filed his benefit at age 62 and currently receive $1000/month. When I reach my FRA and file for benefit, will my spouse be able to get half of my benefit estimated around $2600/month.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Assuming that your spouse’s benefit was reduced by approximately $333 ($1000 is 75% of $1,333) then there would be no excess spousal benefit to add to your spouse’s current benefit when you reach FRA. This is because of the way spousal benefits are calculated: 50% of your FRA benefit minus your spouse’s FRA benefit.

      So – 50% of $2,600 = $1,300. Subtract $1,333 from $1,300 and you get -$33 (negative). If there was a positive result, this amount would be added to your spouse’s current benefit, but since it’s negative there will be no addition for your spouse.

      jb

  84. I will be 66 March 30, 2016. I am still working and expect to for several years. My SS benefit will be $2602 at FRA according to just received SS statement. I plan to delay benefits until 70.

    My wife is 72 and has been taking SS benefit for at least 8 years. I think she gets less than $1000 per month.

    Are we good candidates for file and suspend or restricted applications? Would she continue to get her benefit and half of mine with F&S?

    Thanks, have not seen this covered before.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You have two options available to you, Thomas – either file and suspend or restricted application, as you qualify for both options.

      1) File & Suspend – you could File & Suspend at your age 66, which would allow your wife to begin receiving approximately $301 more per month in Spousal Benefits. Then at your age 70 you would file for your own benefit.
      2) Restricted Application – you could file a restricted application at your age 66, which would allow you to begin receiving 50% of your wife’s benefit, or approximately $500 per month. Then you would file for your own benefit at age 70, which would enable your wife to begin receiving approximately $301 more per month.

      Seems like it’s pretty straightforward – $500 is more than $301.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  85. Jill Manfreddi says:

    I am presently 66 years of age (FRA) and still working.
    I was married for 25 years. I subsequently divorced and my former spouse has since passed away. I did not marry again.
    I recently filed to receive benefits under my deceased ex-spouse’s work record.
    I began receiving this social security benefit in September, 2015.
    My intention is to file for my own social security benefit, under my own work record, at age 70.
    Will I be earning delayed retirement credits under my own work record until I am 70 years of age?
    Should I obtain something in writing from Social Security stating that I will be able to file for benefits under my own work record at a future date? ( My benefit will be larger based upon my work record ).

    1. jblankenship says:

      You should be eligible for the enhanced benefit based on your own record when you reach age 70, as long as that amount is greater than the survivor benefit that you’re presently receiving. The fact that you have not filed based on your own record is sufficient to ensure that your delay credits will be applied for every month that you delay filing for your own benefits.

      jb

  86. Dinesh Patel says:

    Hi Jim,
    I am 68 and started my SS benefits at FRA. My wife is 64 and is working. At her FRA , she would like to claim half my benefit and then age 70 change to claim her SS benefit. Is that do able and what steps she has to take for that.
    Thanks,
    Dinesh

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, this is doable. Your wife would, upon reaching age 66 (FRA) file a restricted application for spousal benefits. That will restrict the application to ONLY the spousal piece, allowing her own benefit to accrue the delay credits up to as late as age 70.

      jb

  87. Simon says:

    Jim,
    I was born in Nov. 1949 and filed and suspend in November 2015. My wife was born Nov. 1952. We went to the SSA office a couple of days ago and the SS rep told us that my wife can file for her benefit at a reduced rate and I can file an Restricted Application for half of her FRA. After reading your article I think I may not be able to do that. If it is the case, what would be our best option to maximize our SS income now? I am still working and my wife’s been long retired. My FRA is $1321 and her FRA will be $775. Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You still can do as the SS rep suggested, you’d just withdraw your suspended application and file restricted once your wife has filed. This is probably the best option you have available if you’re looking to maximize current income from SS and maximize your own future benefit.

      jb

  88. George says:

    Hi JB: Great work you’re doing. I’d appreciate some additional explanation.
    I am FRA-66 (12/1949) fully retired and wife is 62 (8/1953) still working probably another two years.
    My FRA benefit is ~ $2663, wife’s ~$1347.
    I had thought about filing/suspending on 1/2016 and having her immediately afterward file a RA for spousal so we could start getting something from SS to help us support her widowed mother. But now it seems I may have the strategy backwards?
    If I understand correctly my wife cannot file an RA until she is 66? So should I file/suspend in January and have her file for spousal to start immediately? Or should I file an RA for spousal (and if so do I file/suspend first, or just not file for my own until I’m 70?) and she does nothing now – waiting until she is FRA and then file/suspend?
    In other words:
    a) what is our best plan to begin getting something now without jeopardizing my getting the maximum when I turn 70?
    b) what is our best plan (waiting as required to get anything) to maximize both of our SS income?
    My mother-in-law is not destitute but struggling a bit so any additional we can give her now would help. But if waiting until my wife is FRA makes a big difference, I could pull more from my IRA.
    Thank you so much for any guidance you can offer.
    –ga

    1. jblankenship says:

      George –
      A few of things need to be clear right away:
      1) You could file and suspend before April 30, 2016 – but that would only serve to allow your wife to begin receiving the higher of her own benefit or the Spousal Benefit, both of which would be reduced at her present age. Given that she is continuing to work, if she’s earning more than $15,720, her benefits would be further reduced by $1 for every $2 over that amount.
      2) If your wife files for her own benefit and you file a Restricted Application AND she is continuing to work earning more than $15,720 as described above, not only will her benefit be reduced, but the spousal benefit you’re receiving on the restricted application would also be reduced.
      3) Your wife cannot file a restricted application until she is at least at FRA.

      So – with those factors in mind, your wife could file for her benefit now and you could file a restricted application (with the earnings limitations noted above) to receive some benefits now, as long as her earnings don’t wipe out the benefits altogether. Otherwise, your only option with the intent to preserve your ability to maximize your benefits to age 70 would be to simply wait.

      Hope this is helpful –

      jb

  89. Alan RIder says:

    Hello Jim
    My wife , who will be 62 on 4-4-2016 will be filing for SS benefits in early January 2016. Can I file my restricted Application once she is approved, or, do I have to wait until she starts receiving her benefits, which will be May 2016, being paid in June 2016. In-other-words, how soon can I file? ( I am 66 now)
    When does this ‘grandfathered clause’ end? I am confused about the 6 month window and the grandfathered allowance.
    thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can file the restricted application for spousal benefits at the same time as your wife is filing for her own benefit. You won’t begin to receive the benefit until the same month that she begins receiving hers though.

      The grandfathered clause only applies to folks who were born before 1954 – so when all of those people die, it will end. The six-month window is specifically for putting into place a “file and suspend” under the old rules. In the case you’ve described, file and suspend is not a factor.

      jb

  90. Ken says:

    Assuming file-and-suspend is off of the table and RA is still allowable for me:

    1. If my younger spouse’s draw on her own record even at age 70 is less than 50% of my PIA, is there ever any advantage for her to file an RA for spousal benefits instead of just filing for spousal benefits without an RA?

    2. If my younger spouse starts to draw before FRA, I can file an RA for half of her PIA once I reach FRA and let my benefit grow, then switch to draw on my own record whenever I want, correct?

    Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Right on both counts, Ken.

      1. Ken says:

        For #1, it just occurred to me that if COLA pushed her age 70 benefit higher than half of my PIA maybe RA approach would allow her to switch to (probably slightly) higher benefit later. No harm in using the RA just in case, right? Otherwise she’s locked in at half of my PIA. Thanks again.

        1. Ken says:

          Or maybe the same COLA applied to half of my PIA makes it come out the same anyway?

          1. jblankenship says:

            Yes, this is the correct way to look at it – COLA would apply to both her own benefit and the spousal benefit. So if 50% of your PIA is more than 132% of her PIA, there’s no point in the Restricted Application.

            jb

  91. Bee Portillo says:

    Can you kindly explain how this works if you are both FRA but divorced, having been married 10 years?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you are at FRA and divorced (having been married the requisite 10 years) as long as two years have passed since your divorce, you can file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. This will allow you to delay filing for your own benefit until a later date, as late as age 70.

      jb

      1. Bee Portillo says:

        Thank you ! Would your “ex” have to be at least 62 and filed for benefits already. My ex is younger than me. Great site. I am sharing your info.

        1. jblankenship says:

          The ex spouse must at least be age 62 (in your original message you said you were both FRA). But as long as at least two years has passed since the divorce, the ex’s filing status does not factor into your eligibility.

          jb

  92. Mike says:

    Jim,
    This is an amazing amount of information, yet I still struggle with the strategy. At this time I am 64 and my wife is 68, neither taking benefits. My benefits are slated to be higher than hers by about double. My reading is that under the new changes I get shut out from filing and suspending, then claiming a spousal benefit.

    Could I file a restricted application in two years once she reaches age 70, and therefore I receive a spousal benefit?

    Thanks for the sage advice.
    Mike

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that would work just fine – you are eligible for the restricted application since you were born before 1954.

      jb

  93. Greg says:

    I sent a message last night, but my intention was to leave a comment, so others might benefit from your response. I’m helping my parents make a decision on SS, as they don’t want to leave any money on the table. They are both 66, and neither have filed with SSA in any way. They are both working and don’t necessarily need the money now, but considering my father’s health will most likely prohibit him from living beyond normal life expectancy, the thought is to take advantage of some of the benefits now. Father’s PIA is approx. $2250, and mother’s is $1900. Based on what I’ve gathered, it seems the best way to max out the total benefits received between the 2 of them, while also maxing out their survivor benefit, is for my mother to file for benefits now, and for my father to use the restricted application to claim spousal benefits until age 70. Would you agree that this is a good option considering the information I’ve given? Thank you for the helpful information you provide.

    1. jblankenship says:

      That strategy will work just fine.

      One other option that might be of interest is for your father to file and suspend (he can do this under the old rules until April 30, 2016) and your mother could file for spousal benefits only, receiving 50% of your father’s $2,200 benefit. Then both of them could delay receiving benefits based upon their own records, increasing the benefit amounts by 8% per year of delay.

      If they don’t need the cash flow at the moment, this option might provide them with a nice increase to benefits while providing some cash in the meantime.

      The only downside is that if your father files and suspends his benefit he wouldn’t be able to continue participating in a Health Savings Account (HSA) if he happens to have one.

      jb

  94. Bill says:

    I am 67 my wife will be 65 in March 2016. I have not filed and will continue to work until after age 70. My wife does not work. Her FRA is about $750. My FRA was about $2200.

    1) should she file in April @ 65? And then file for spousal at my age 70?
    2) would I be able to file restricted on her in April at about 1/2 hers? We do not need the money but want all we are due because we are paying for it.
    3) what are the tax penalties for filing above since we are in a high income bracket?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering your questions by number:

      1) Should she file in April? This is up to you folks to decide.
      2) If she has filed for benefits, you would be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits.
      3) No tax penalties, received SS benefits are likely to be counted as 85% taxable income (the highest amount).

      Another alternative that may provide more benefits for you as a couple would be for you to file and suspend before April 30, and then your wife can either file immediately or wait until her FRA, at which point she’d receive approximately $1,100 per month.

      Running the numbers versus your proposal, the monthly income beginning in March or April of next year would be roughly $1,075, and then your wife’s addition of spousal benefits when you reach age 70 would bring her total benefit to approximately $1,050.

      Under either option your benefit would achieve the maximum delay credits.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  95. John Quinn says:

    Hi Jim,
    Wife is currently age 60 and at 62 plans to claim SS on her work record. Me, the husband currently age 63 plans to file a restricted application at FRA age 66 and claim spouse benefit off wife work record. Then at age 70 me, the husband will stop spousal benefit and claim his own SS on his work record. Is this allowed under the new changes to SS?
    Thanks for all that you do to help retires.
    John and Kathy

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that should work just fine. Depending upon the amount of your (and your wife’s) benefits, once you file at age 70 your wife may be eligible for an increase to benefits from the spousal offset increase. That is, if you PIA is more than double her PIA – she could get an increase at that point.

      jb

  96. Christine Sebek says:

    I am 66 and filed and suspended my be befit today. I plan on waiting until 70. My husband will not be 66 until August 14, 2016 and is currently working. He would like to file and restrict and take 50% of my benefit. Social Security office said the earliest he can file snd restrict is May 14, 2016, 3 months prior to 66. Will file and restrict still be available at that time due to budget changes?

    1. jblankenship says:

      A restricted application is available to anyone who reaches Full Retirement Age, has a spouse who has filed for benefits, and was born before 1954 (after the changes from the Budget Act).

      jb

  97. Stephanie Carpenter says:

    Hi Jim,

    My husband turns 65 in February and I turn 50 in May. We are both still working. Because of our age difference, is the best strategy for us is for my husband to file and suspend and then receive full benefits at age 70? Would I be able to receive any of his benefits when I turn 60? Then when I turn 67, I could file for my own or file and suspend until I’m age 70?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Nothing would be accomplished by your husband filing and suspending, so there’s no benefit to that. If cash flow allows, it probably makes the most sense for your husband to delay his benefit to age 70 to maximize his benefit and any future Survivor Benefit that you might receive if he pre-deceases you.

      You would not be eligible for Spousal Benefits based on his record until you reach age 62 (under current rules). And regardless of when you start benefits you will not be able to “switch” or file and suspend benefits – whatever you get when you file is going to be the maximum you’ll get. Then, upon your husband’s passing, your benefits would cease and you would take over his benefit as a survivor’s benefit (this assumes his benefit is the larger of the two).

      jb

      1. Stephanie says:

        Thank you, Jim. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

  98. Ben says:

    I’m 66 in September 2016. Spouse is 65 in July 2016. Neither are drawing currently.

    (1) If I file in September 2016 at my FRA, can spouse file for 50% of my PIA immediately, or will hers be reduced since she would be filing 10 months before her FRA? (Her PIA on her own record is less than half my PIA.) If reduced, is it 2/3 percent per month for number of months until her FRA (~6.7%)?

    (2) If spouse files in January 2016 on her own record, then I file in September at my FRA and she switches to spousal benefit, would her spousal draw amount be reduced the same percentage as in (1) since she started 10 months early?

    (3) If we both file in January (me on my record, her for spousal), I understand both would be reduced, but would her reduced percentage be applied to my PIA or my reduced amount?

    Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering your questions in order by number:

      1) If your wife files for any benefit prior to FRA it will be reduced. If the Spousal Benefit is available due to your filing for your benefit, she will receive the larger of a) her own benefit, reduced by her age; or b) the spousal benefit, reduced by her age.
      2) The total benefit that she would receive under those circumstances would be less than if she waited until September since she would be filing for her own benefit earlier. In other words, if she waits until September before filing for any benefit, the total benefits would be greater than if she files for her own in January and then the Spousal in September.
      3) Her Spousal Benefit would be based on your PIA, not your reduced benefit amount.

      jb

      1. Ben says:

        Thanks. One more follow-up. I’m finding conflicting stories regarding how the SS reduction due to working affects spousal benefits. For example, if we did my option 3 above and both of us claim starting in January 2016 (me, on my record but starting at 65, spouse for percentage of my PIA at 64) and I end up continuing to work and making more than the limit, I know my benefit is reduced, but is the spousal benefit reduced also – and if so how would the spousal reduction be calculated? And, for that matter, since I would reach FRA in September 2016, how does the penalty calculation work period for a partial year? I know it changes to $1 for every $3 in your FRA year, but do only the first 9 months enter into the earnings calculation in my case? Thanks again.

        1. Ben says:

          Regarding the spousal benefit question, your reply was my initial understanding, but I’ve since found several references to the contrary: “In addition to your own payment, any spousal benefit or child benefit payable on your record can be reduced because of your work.”
          This is part of an article at: http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20140509/BLOG05/140509900/social-security-earnings-limits-can-reduce-spousal-benefits-too

          At: http://www.socialsecuritychoices.com/info/workclaim.php I found: “Secondly, spousal benefits are reduced if the primary beneficiary is under full retirement age and has excess earnings. When this situation occurs family benefits are reduced, not just the retiree’s benefits. So, family benefits are reduced $1 for every $2 in excess earnings by the retiree ($1 for every $3 in the year before full retirement age). This reduction is prorated across the married couple’s benefits.”

          I’ve not been able to find this on the official SS site, hence my confusion.

          1. jblankenship says:

            Ok great. Question answered then.

  99. Jim in PA says:

    Jim, thanks for all of this information, it’s really helpful.
    I just turned 66 and my (divorced) spouse is also 66. We were married for more than 10 years and have been divorced for more than two. I am retired. She is still employed.

    My PIA is about $2,500 and therefore my Age 70 benefit is about $3,200. My former spouse does not know her PIA, but I estimate it at about $1,000.

    I’m asking about strategies for each of us.
    Me: I believe that I should file a Restricted Application to collect a spousal benefit on her earnings record with the plan to file an application based on my own earnings record later. “Later” would be Age 70, or sooner if I received negative information about my expected longevity.

    Former Spouse: I believe that she should do the same – file a Restricted Application to collect a spousal benefit on my earnings record. While we don’t know her PIA or Age 70 benefit, this strategy would preserve her option to switch to it later if it’s higher.

    Questions: Is this a correct analysis/strategy for each of us? or is there any downside to doing this?
    Would filing and suspending give us anything? I believe I heard that nearly everyone should File and Suspend to set up an option to receive a benefit back to that date, if negative health/longevity is received in the future.
    I read here that a Restricted Application can be done through the online system. If we should also F&S, can all of that be done in one online application?
    Thanks
    Jim

    1. jblankenship says:

      NO! Do not file and suspend, that will eliminate your option to file restricted applications! You cannot file a restricted application if you have filed for any benefits previously, including file & suspend. (Sorry, I don’t intend to come across as too emphatic on this but it’s a distinction that people really need to understand and I have answered the same question many, many times recently.)

      Other than that glaring problem – your analysis is appropriate for both of you, I think.

      jb

  100. I will not turn 66 unit May 28, 2016. My wife will turn 69 Nov. 24, 2015. She is currently drawing her SS benefit. I don’t plan on retiring until at least age 68. What would our best strategy be now and when I turn 66?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can file a restricted application for spousal benefits when you reach age 66. This will provide you with 50% of your wife’s age 66 benefit while you delay your own until later – growing at 8% each year you delay. There is no action needed now, just when you turn age 66. You can file the application up to 3 months in advance, just make sure SSA knows you’re filing a restricted application for spousal benefits only.

      jb

  101. Trace Watkins says:

    Jim,
    I’m a bit unclear still. I’ll be 66 in July 2016 and my wife will be 66 in September 2016, too late for F&S. My PIA is $2500, her PIA is $960. Is the following what we should do?
    1) July 2016 I do nothing, no need to contact SSA
    2) September 2016 my wife files to collect her PIA of $960
    3) After that’s approved, I file a restricted application for a spousal benefit of $480
    4) July 2020, at age 70, I file to get my $2500*1.32 = $3300 while spouse continues with $960
    5) September 2020 my spouse applies for a spousal benefit of $3300 / 2? $2500 / 2?
    Thanks for your help,
    Trace

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’ve got it right. The one exception being that your wife does not need to wait to her age 70 to start the Spousal, she can start as soon as you file for your benefit at your age 70. Her spousal benefit will be 50% of your age 66 amount, not your age 70 amount.

      jb

      1. Jim Walters says:

        Does this mean that wife cannot collect spousal benefit while husband is on file and restrict?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, if the husband is on a restricted application then he has not filed for his own benefit. If he has not filed for his own benefit, then his spouse cannot file for spousal benefits.

          jb

  102. Jack Pesselman says:

    Jim
    I just turned 66 last month and applied to File & Suspend my benefits in order for my wife is also 66 to File a Restricted Claim and receive half of my monthly benefits. My monthly benefits $ 2610.00 x 50% = $ 1305.00

    Social Security insists on taking out of my wife’s payment Medicare Part B payment of $ 104.90 from this $ 1305.00 per month. I was doing research on the internet and was advised to pay this Medicare Part B out of my own pocket and not let SS deduct this from her monthly check. The reason given was SS will treat this as waving not suspending benefits if they pay it themselves and I won’t get Delayed Retirement Credit. Was this article referring to my benefits ONLY and not to my wife’s.
    Do I have a choice in this matter if I would rather write a check each month for my wife’s Medicare Part B separately or have it deducted from her monthly check?
    I know in the long run it is the same amount each year either way.

    Jack

    1. jblankenship says:

      I honestly don’t know about this. My understanding is that unless you are having the premium withheld from your SS benefit you’ll be subject to the additional 18% increase (rather than the “hold harmless” premium of 104.90). Other than that, I don’t know of any impact to your suspended benefit by your wife having her medicare premium withheld from her benefit.

      jb

  103. John Caneira says:

    Jim
    Not sure if this question has been asked yet so I’ll give it a go. My wife is 53 and about to turn 64 in February. I just turned 63 in October. She has a work history of about 20 years as a RN but has been on SS Disability for the last 10 years or so. I’m expecting her to come off SSDI when she turns 66 in Feb of 2018 and I am still planning on working until at least October of 2018. If she comes off of SSDI in February, are there any options of File and Suspend or Restricted Application available to me because her PIA will be significantly lower (based on reduced work history and part time work history) than getting 50% of the spousal benefits that she could be entitled to once I file for SS. Any advice. and thanks for your reply.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately your situation (in terms of ages) eliminates the possibility of your wife receiving spousal benefits while you delay your own. However, your wife’s SSDI benefit will switch to a retirement benefit upon her reaching FRA (age 66), so she’ll continue to receive that benefit. Once you file for benefits, she will be eligible to also receive the Spousal Benefit increase up to 50% of your Primary Insurance Amount.

      jb

  104. Dave Pagel says:

    Can a divorced spouse file a restricted application?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If the divorcee is at least Full Retirement Age, has not filed for any other benefit previously, was born before 1954, was married for 10 years or longer, and either the ex-spouse has filed for benefits or 2 years have passed since the divorce was finalized – then yes, a divorced spouse can file a restricted application.

      jb

  105. Carlotta says:

    Just recently applied for ss. I am 66 in Dec 2015, my husband has been collecting ss since march( already 66)I just got a call from ss they wanted to know if I wanted to choose spousal benefits only instead of just my full benefits. They told me I would get 822.00 per month on my benefits alone or 821.00 on spousal benefits. This seems like a no brainer! Are there some hidden agendas here to their benefit?

    1. jblankenship says:

      That’s unusual – but definitely in your favor. If you file for Spousal Benefits now at $1 per month less, then when you reach age 70 (or any age in between) you can add delay credits to your own benefit. If you wait until 70 your benefit would increase by 32% (plus COLAs) so it will be at least $1.085.

      Good for you!

      jb

  106. Jim E. says:

    Jim B., My spouse is currently age 70, and I turned 66 earlier this year. She started drawing her own retirement benefit at her FRA. I recently filed a restricted application and have begun to receive a spousal benefit based on her retirement. Our combined monthly SS income using that approach was a bit higher than it would have been if I had done a file and suspend at my FRA which would have allowed her to shift to a spousal benefit.

    Based what I understand about the recent changes in the SS regulations, I am grandfathered. That is, I can continue to collect a spousal benefit until age 70 when I can then shift to my own (increased) retirement benefit. However, I am unclear about the effects (if any) of the new regs on the options that will be open to my spouse when I begin drawing my own retirement benefit at age 70.

    Assuming that my spouse and I are still governed by today’s rules in 2019 when I reach age 70, will she: 1) be able to shift over to a spousal benefit based on my FRA retirement benefit; or 2) be required to continue drawing only her own retirement benefit; or 3) something else?

    I am considering whether or not I should try for a do-over. That is, should I pay back the spousal benefits I’ve already received and then pursue a file and suspend strategy while the 6-month window is still open? Your thoughts would be appreciated.

    Jim E.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’re in good shape, Jim. Your strategy can continue just the way you planned, with you collecting the spousal benefit until you reach age 70, and then when you file for your own benefit your wife will be eligible for the spousal benefit increase to her total benefit. There is no reason to consider making any changes – you’re golden.

      jb

  107. Anne Marie says:

    My husband and I were both born in 1953. I plan to file for SS benefits ($1050) at 66. He will be 66 at that point and will file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. He will file for his benefits ($3580) at 70, and I will file for spousal. Is this a good strategy and best option for us?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sounds fine to me.

      jb

      1. Jan Coopoer says:

        My wife and I are the same age as Anne and her husband; this looks like a very efficient strategy. In this scenario, since Anne filed for her benefit at age 66, can she actually switch to a spousal benefit at age 70? When I called the SSA 800 help line, the rep I spoke with said “no way”; Anne would have to stick with her age 66 benefit. I’m confused! Thanks for your help.

        1. jblankenship says:

          If the spousal benefit is larger than the wife’s own benefit, as soon as eligible for it (by the husband’s filing) then she would of course be allowed to file. In the case of Anne, her husband’s PIA calculates to roughly $2,712 ($3,580 divided by 132%) so the spousal benefit would be $1,356. Upon her husband’s filing at age 70 she will be eligible for the increase of roughly $306 per month for spousal benefits.

          jb

          1. Jan Cooper says:

            Thank you for the rapid reply. Do you see any dark political clouds on the horizon (with the next 4 years) with regard to terminating “file and restrict”? Filing a restricted application for me at age 66 yielded a 9% combined (husband & wife) advantage (projecting out to age 80), when compared to each of us simply filing for our own FRA benefits at age 66. Thank you again for your time and reply!

          2. jblankenship says:

            I will plead the fifth. There is no way to know if there will be any changes to restricted application within the next 4 years. This latest change (in my opinion) wasn’t foretold, that would require that it was logical in some way.

            What I have to tell you is that (generally) once big changes are made they tend to leave the system alone for a while. And when changes are made, at least historically, they have grandfathered in current recipients (as they did with this most recent change). On the other hand, we all know based on projections that the system is ready to run out of money within the coming 15-18 years or less. Changes will need to occur at some point, but if history is a guide they’ll wait until a crisis is looming to act – as they did most recently.

            jb

  108. Paula Mcleod says:

    I’m a little confused my husband has been collecting Social Security since2004 at the age 0f 54 He was on disability of $1,500 a month I started collecting Social Security at age 62 and I make $800 a month if my husband is to die before me am I able to get his social security instead of mine or does that mean I don’t get any of it and I have to have just the $800

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, you should still have access to a Survivor’s Benefit based on your husband’s record. Nothing has changed about that.

      jb

  109. Nivia Montenegro says:

    Hi Jim,

    Just found out about these SS benefit changes yesterday. My husband was born July 1, 1950 and plans to retire at FRA. I was born September 9, 1950 and plan to work until I’m 70 and then retire. Can my husband file a restricted application while I’m working, get spousal benefits and then claim his own benefits when he turns 70? What are our options? We are both unclear on how this works for us because neither will be 66 by May 1, 2016.
    Thanks,
    Nivia

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your options are limited under the new rules. Since you are wishing to delay your benefits to age 70, your husband will not have access to the Spousal Benefit until you have filed. And this works vice-versa, you would not have access to spousal benefits until your husband files.

      If your husband retires at FRA and starts drawing his own benefit at that point, you could (upon reaching FRA) file a restricted application and receive Spousal Benefits based on his record, delaying your own benefit to age 70. This is not impacted by the fact that you’d still be working at that stage. It could work the other way as well, with you filing for your own benefit at FRA and he filing for the Spousal Benefit while delaying his own. These two options are exclusive of one another, you can’t do both at the same time.

      jb

  110. Dave & Lisa says:

    Hello Jim, I found this site after reading about the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Bill of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later.
    My name is Dave, turned 62 Aug. 10, 2015 (born 1953) and my wife is Lisa, turned 65 Sep. 7 2015 (born 1950). Lisa started collecting Social Security at age 62 in the amount of $678 (FRA at 66 about $1020?), my estimated SS at FRA is $2144, and at age 70 $2874, I would like to file a restricted application when I reach FRA and collect my SS at age 70. Is Lisa allowed to suspend her benefits when she turns 66 in 2016 and restart collecting at age 70?
    Questions: 1- Is this option still available for my wife and me with the new law. 2- If I could collect 50% of my wife’s SS, is it half of the $678 or PIA $1020? 3- I would like to retire at 65 and draw down my investments plus the spousal benefits until turning 70, given the information provided will this work, any advise would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank You, Dave

    1. jblankenship says:

      Answering your questions in order:

      (unnumbered first question) Is Lisa allowed to suspend her benefits… – the answer is yes, she could suspend her benefits but she could not collect any other benefits during that period, other than the excess spousal benefit which would amount to approximately $57 per month. So, unless that’s attractive to you, effectively she would not have the option to suspend at FRA. FYI, this did not change with the new laws.

      1) Not sure what option you’re referring to – if you mean the option for you to collect the spousal benefit via a restricted application beginning at your FRA, then yes, that option is available.
      2) Your Spousal Benefit would be 50% of her PIA.
      3) Yes, that will work.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Tom says:

        Hi Jim
        I appreciate your articles on SS. I thought that we had figured our best strategy for spousal benefits until yesterday when I called into a financial talk show on SS benefit strategies. Here is our situation: I filed and started to receive benefits when I turned 70 in April 2015. My wife will be 63 this month. The host of the show said that my spouse could immediately “file and suspend”, and file for the spousal benefit, then at 70 collect on her own SS benefit instead. That advice was different from what I had understood were the rules but I wasn’t quick enough to question it.

        It is my understanding, from reading your articles and other sources, that if my spouse filed now she would have to take the larger of either a percentage of my PIA or a reduced amount of her PIA. She can not file a restricted application (needs to be age 66) for spousal only benefit to preserve her ability to maximize her benefits at age 70.

        Does she have to wait until her FRA to file a restricted spousal only benefit application in order to preserve the ability to maximize her benefits at age 70, and filing now would lock her into a much lower benefit forever? My PIA and her own PIA are almost the same amount.
        Thanks
        Tom

        1. jblankenship says:

          The host of the show was wrong. Your wife cannot file and suspend until she reaches her Full Retirement Age, which is 66. At any rate, there would be no reason for her to file and suspend, as she’s not trying to enable you to file for spousal benefits, but rather she wishes to receive spousal benefits based on your record.

          So, if she wants to receive Spousal Benefits based on your record, she can either start receiving the higher of her own reduced benefit or the spousal benefit at her current age, OR since she was born before 1954 she could delay to her FRA and start the Spousal Benefit alone via a restricted application, then file for her own benefit at some later point (up to age 70).

          Hope this helps –

          jb

    2. Dave & Lisa says:

      Thank you for answering my question and the quick response, the only part of your answer that i don’t understand is ” other than the excess spousal benefit which would amount to approximately $57 per month. So, unless that’s attractive to you, effectively she would not have the option to suspend at FRA.” . I never heard that word “excess” before and not sure how that amount was caculated. could you explain please. Thank You again Jim :-)

      1. jblankenship says:

        Excess spousal benefit is the difference between your own PIA and 50% of your spouse’s PIA.

        Your PIA is $2,144, and your wife’s PIA is $1,020, per your earlier message. 50% of your PIA is $1,072 (which I mistakenly calculated in my head when responding to you as $1077). Subtracting your wife’s PIA from that figure gives us the excess, $52 (corrected from my initial error).

        jb

  111. terry colen says:

    I just turned 66, my full retirement age and my wife is 63 and neither of us have applied for any social security benefit. As the higher wage earner my plan was to wait until my spouse was 66 and have her file a restricted application. I file and suspend so both of us would have got the 8% delayed credit.

    However with the law making this not an option now (since she is 3 years away from her full retirement age) what is our best alternative?
    Can I file a restricted application and get only the spousal benefit (i am at my FRA) without my wife who is only 63 filing anything with social security? Since she is not Full Retirement age if she files she will get more on her record than the 1/2 of my benefit and stop earning the delayed 8% on her own record which at age 70% would give her the most money.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Au contraire, mon ami! You are still allowed to use your original plan, you just need to be on the ball. As long as you file and suspend before April 30, 2016, your wife will be eligible (by virtue of her birth year being before 1954) to file a restricted application when she reaches FRA. She can then delay until age 70 to file for her own benefit.

      You are the very couple that the grandfathering phase-in of the Bipartisan Budget Act was written for, my friend.

      jb

  112. George says:

    I Will turn 67 soon and am about to retire. I am not planning to file for Social Security until I turn 70 so it will continue growing 8% a year. My wife who is 69 started to collect SS at her FRA. Can I file and suspend and do a restricted application to collect on my wife’s benefit while she is already collecting?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You could file and suspend but you wouldn’t get any benefits at all until you reach age 70.

      You would likely want to file a restricted application (actually you should do so right away!) since your wife is collecting benefits. You should be receiving a benefit equal to 50% of your wife’s benefit from now until you reach age 70 and file for your own benefit. I would not hesitate at all, contact Social Security as soon as possible and file a restricted application. You’ve already lost money, don’t wait and lose more.

      jb

  113. Ken says:

    Hi Jim,

    Seemed that this thread was going to go on forever and now I guess Mr. Obama has assured its continuance with his Nov 2nd signing! I’ve just turned 65 and my spouse just turned 64. My strategy (Plan A) to maximize our benefits, which you validated many months ago, was to file and suspend at my FRA (can’t do that now as I’m 4 months beyond the 6 month deadline). Spouse’s full draw, even at age 70 is less than half of my FRA, so plan was for her to file RA at her FRA (66), drawing spousal benefit of about $1,300. I would hold out until 70, then draw approx $3,500. Spouse would continue, of course, with her $1,300 spousal benefit giving us a total of $4,800. Based on my spreadsheets, that would maximize our benefits at least through age 85. Since that’s now been invalidated, my spreadsheets say my Plan B should be for spouse to start drawing on her own record immediately (approx $740), continuing until I reach age 70, and then file an RA for spousal benefit of approx $1,200 (adjusted down $100 due to her early filing). I would file RA now and draw half of her benefit, or about $370, until I file at age 70 when I would switch to my full benefit of about $3,500. That gives us $1,110 starting now until I reach 70, then $4,610. Total benefit numbers are not nearly as good as Plan A, but nothing I can do about that. Question is, do you see any ‘gotchas’ in my Plan B? Spouse will not be working, but I will continue full-time until 70 – will that affect my spousal benefit? – wasn’t sure about that.

    The new file-and-suspend rule seems grossly unfair to anyone who may have already started a strategy based on the old rules which might be difficult to reverse! Seems that the grandfathering for it should have been the same as for the RA rules, that is, anyone now 62 or older could use the old rules.

    Thanks for providing this great site!

    Ken

    1. jblankenship says:

      Ken – I believe you have the correct strategy lined out for you and your wife. At this point you really don’t have much else in the way of alternatives, and the outcome is actually pretty close to what you originally planned – at the cost of (from your figures) $190/month differential.

      I don’t see anything wrong with your assumptions, everything should work as you say (under current rules!).

      jb

      1. Ken says:

        Thanks for the validation. I discovered one small wrinkle after I posted in that I forgot that I had to be FRA before drawing half of spouse’s amount – but that’s only a 9-month period – I will be FRA in Sept 2016 so that doesn’t affect much overall. Now, wondering how likely it is that current rules will stay in-place. As you say, it’s only costing me $190/month, but that’s over $45K over the next 20 years! If they flip things back or extend the deadline, I guess I could always pay back and start over. Thanks again.

  114. Linda says:

    Jim,

    My situation: I am 65 and will not be 66 until December 2016. I am retiring this month. My husband is 79 and has been collecting SS since he was 62. I was planning to file and suspend when I turned 66 and claims spousal benefits until I turned 70. What would work for me now?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Linda – file and suspend was never an option that would have worked for you. What you are eligible for, and what you’ve described, is a restricted application. You can still do this when you reach FRA (age 66) by virtue of the fact that you were born before 1954 and your spouse has already started his benefits. Then when you reach age 70 you can file for your own, enhanced benefit.

      jb

      1. Linda says:

        Thanks Jim for getting back to me. Correct me if I am wrong but at age 66 I file a restricted application and would be eligible for spousal benefits only. Then when I reach 70 I file for my benefits?
        Thank you, I enjoy your site.
        Linda

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, Linda, that sequence of actions is how it should go for you.

          jb

  115. John McGrath says:

    My last SS statement indicated I should get $2100 per month in April next year. I am also retired Navy and do not really need the money. However, since I recently remarried and she just turned 58 and her SS would be a lot less than mine- what are my options (see the recent msg about my recieving my dead wife’s SS)

    1. jblankenship says:

      John, you can continue to delay your own benefit up to your age 70 in order to maximize any potential survivor benefit for your current spouse. Otherwise, there’s not much other strategizing to do. By the time your current wife reaches age 62 (minimum to receive benefits) you will be very close to age 70 – so you might as well wait and file at that point and she can pick up spousal benefits at that point.

      jb

  116. John McGrath says:

    I am 65 and will be 66 in April next year. I am receiving my dead wife’s SS benifit (she was older than I) I have since remarried she just turned 58. I recieve $1326 – I am not working – what are my options?

  117. KPC says:

    Hi Jim,
    I am trying to decide what’s best to do considering the proposed new changes to SS Spousal Benefits law. I am divorced more than 2 years. Was married for 20 years. I will be 66 on Feb 2017. Ex-spouse 66 on Nov 2017. Which option is better for me?:
    1. Wait till 66 (Feb 2017) at FRA and file for benefits and restrict my application to collect spousal benefit ONLY. Allowing my own benefit rate to grow at 8% per year till age 70 and then apply for full benefits. OR
    2. Apply for spousal benefit now (at 64) and restrict my own benefits till age 70? Will I be collecting a greater benefit at age 70 than my benefit at age 66?
    3. Are there any other options for maximising my total benefits?
    Thank you.

    k

    1. jblankenship says:

      k – Option 2 is not allowed. You can only restrict benefits once you have reached FRA. So the only real option you have to maximize your own benefit and collect spousal benefits in the interim is your option 1. You fit the qualifications to allow this since you were born before 1954.

      jb

  118. Steve Aridgides says:

    Jim,

    I turned 66 in 2015. I filed and suspended. My wife turns 66 in July 2016. Her own SS would be minimal. With the passage for the new law and the six month window(?), will she still be able to file a restricted (?) application to claim 1/2 of my benefit starting in July 2016?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, since she’s over age 62 by the end of 2015, she will be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits. If her own benefit would never be larger than the spousal benefit (with the addition of delay credits) there’s no need to file a restricted application though.

      jb

      1. Steve Aridgides says:

        many thanks for the quick reply!!
        Her benefit would never be larger than 1/2 of mine. What then should she file for? A “regular” spousal application for 1/2 of my benefit? What is the exact wording we should use for her SS application?

        PS
        66 is the age for FRA for both of us

        1. jblankenship says:

          The exact wording would be for her to file for all benefits for which she is eligible. Meaning, she is filing for her own benefit and the Spousal Benefit, effectively receiving the larger of the two.

          jb

          1. Steve Aridgides says:

            thanks again. Do you think I can continue to “suspend” my benefits and get the 8% yearly bump, or do I need to start getting them for her to collect 1/2 of mine?

          2. jblankenship says:

            Since you and your wife were both born before 1954 and since you have suspended before the due date (April 30, 2016), you can continue to suspend your benefit and accrue the 8% delay credit while your wife collects the spousal benefit based on your record.

            jb

          3. Michael Vinson says:

            Does the application for the restricted benefit need to be made during the 6 month window or do you still wait until the younger spouse reaches full retirement age? Also, wouldn’t you want to file just a application for a spousal benefit for the younger spouse and defer filing for her own benefit to allow her benefit to grow 8% a year? Thanks

          4. jblankenship says:

            Restricted application is only available at Full Retirement Age, and it is not affected by the 180-day window. The only limit on restricted application is your year of birth, or rather the year of the spouse that is intending to file a restricted application. He or she must be born before 1954 in order to use the restricted application. The other spouse must have filed by that age in order to make the restricted application available as well.

            jb

          5. Michael Vinson says:

            To be clear. My wife was born in 1949. I was born in 1952. We both want to delay receipt of our individual benefits until we are each 70 but I want to start claiming spousal benefits at my full retirement age. I can still file a restricted application when I turn 66 because I was born before 1954. I do not need to do anything within the 6 month window. Does my wife need to file and suspend within the 6 month window or can she wait until 2018 to file and suspend when I turn 66? Thanks.

          6. jblankenship says:

            If your wife is not currently receiving benefits and will not be receiving benefits by the time you reach FRA, she may wish to file & suspend within the 180-day window (by April 30) to enable you to file a restricted application when you reach FRA. If she does not file & suspend within this 180-day period, doing a file and suspend later would not allow you to file a restricted application until she files for her own benefits (unsuspends). If she files and suspends within the coming 180 days, all will be set for you to do the restricted application later.

            jb

  119. William M Zahn says:

    From what I read previously, you can’t file a restricted application online. That it must be done in person and that some SS personnel are not familiar with the processes. Is it possible to relay to us the proper procedures and forms needed to file for the spousal benefit using a restricted application?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can file a restricted application online. There is a checkbox on the online form that asks if you want to file only for spousal benefits and delay filing for the benefits based on your earnings record.

      Otherwise, you would make a notation on the paper form (if filing on paper) that indicates you want to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only and delay filing for the benefits based on your earnings record.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Robert says:

        Just learning about Restricted Application and more about File & Suspend.
        My wife= 66, started receiving SS benefits at FRA=Nov.,2014, presently $833/month.
        I am 65, will be at FRA=Feb.,2016. My SS at FRA=$2,579/mon.

        Should I file RA to get spousal benefit= $416/mon., with wife continuing to receive $833/mon.

        Or, I F&S for wife to receive spousal benefit= $1,289/month, with F&S, I would not receive a spousal benefit.

        Or, can wife do a restart by doing F&S for me to qualify for spousal benefit on her account and I also F&S at my FRA for wife to qualify for spousal benefit on my account.

        1. jblankenship says:

          All of those options are available to you. Since your wife started her benefit within the previous 12 months, the restart would be possible but you would have to pay back all of the benefits received to-date. That option seems like the best one in terms of maximizing benefits for you as a couple, as long as you have the funds to pay back the benefits. You’d need to pay back the full amount, including the medicare premiums that were deducted and any tax withheld.

          Hope this helps –

          jb

          1. Robert says:

            The best option would be for wife to restart, we can pay back the benefits she has already received.
            Should both of us then do F&S for our own accounts or both do the RA? Not sure if both of us can do same type of filing to receive spousal benefits, thought SS did not allow it. Or, do a combo of F&S and RA.

          2. jblankenship says:

            Only the spouse that is not going to collect spousal benefit will file and suspend. The other spouse (the one getting the spousal benefit) will file a restricted application. In your case, since your benefit is the larger of the two, it probably makes the most sense for you to file and suspend and your wife file a restricted application when she reaches FRA.

            jb

          3. Robert says:

            Is it possible for each of us to collect spousal benefits on each other’s SS account? Very confusing, because calling SS, can not get a straight answer.
            I was told we both can not do F&S, only one can. Likewise, for filing a RA. But, can one spouse file a F&S and the other a RA to max out benefits?
            My SS benefit at FRA (2/2016)=2580. Wife’s SS benefit at FRA (11/2014)=833 (presently collecting from (11/2014).

            What is best route for us to each get other’s SS spousal benefit? Or is this permitted?

          4. jblankenship says:

            No, you can never both collect spousal benefits, only one spouse at a time. And with the coming changes to SS benefit strategies, you may not even have the option for one of you to collect on the other if you’re relying on file and suspend.

            jb

          5. Robert says:

            Jb,

            Went to SS office to discuss options because the SS telephone service not very helpful.

            The SS rep. said they do not use terms like F&S or RA to discuss benefits. It was decided that I do not qualify for spousal benefits in any of the scenarios because my personal benefit is too high compared to wife’s.

            It would be best for me to file to get benefits and wife starts getting 1/2 of my allotted benefit (spousal benefit) or to file and delay getting my benefits while wife still qualifies to receive 1/2 of my benefit.

            Is this the best scenario for us? I have given you our benefit numbers in past email. Can you please comment on the best path to take?

            Thanks

          6. jblankenship says:

            In order for your wife to receive spousal benefits based on your record you will need to file and suspend your benefit. Under the new law you have 180 days from the passage of the law to complete this. Once you’ve filed and suspended your wife can file for the spousal benefit.

            jb

          7. Robert says:

            But, you had stated that both cannot receive spousal benefits. Therefore, we cannot do the restart strategy for my wife to do her own F&S so that I can receive spousal benefits. Since, she will be getting spousal benefits from my F&S.

          8. jblankenship says:

            Let’s recap: the original strategy that I mentioned as the likely best option for you is probably more complicated than necessary. Since your wife filed for her own benefit at FRA and it will never grow to a larger amount than the Spousal Benefit, there is no need for her to pay back benefits and withdraw her application. When you reach FRA in February, if you want to continue delaying your benefits you can do one of two things – either 1) you file a restricted application and begin receiving the Spousal Benefit in the amount of approximately $416 per month (wife’s bene is $833) or 2) you can file and suspend your benefit, allowing your wife to file for the Spousal Benefit based on your record, bringing her total to approximately $1,290 (your bene is $2,580).

            Under option 1 the total benefits you’d receive would be $1,249, under option 2 the amount would be $1,290. Either way, your own benefit can be delayed to accrue the delayed retirement credits at 8% per year.

            Hope this helps –

            jb

          9. Robert says:

            Jb,

            I see 3 possible options for me: 1) Begin collecting my SS now at 65, wife would begin her spousal benefit off my account. 2) Wait to start at my FRA to begin taking benefits, wife to receive her spousal benefits. 3) F&S at my FRA, wife to receive her spousal benefits.

            Doing the long term calculations of benefits received from each scenario, it would take the F&S option about 11-12 years to reach the break even point of scenarios 1 or 2, assuming my wife & I live that long.

            I am still debating the merits of F&S. It is a long time to reach the break even point. So much can possibly happen and there is also the inflation factor that devalues future benefits.

            Am I correct in my analysis? Thanks for your input.

          10. jblankenship says:

            It’s a personal call – no one knows for sure how long you’ll live.

            Regarding your analysis, I have not run the numbers but since you have, I have no reason to argue with the outcome you’ve found. It sounds quite reasonable to me given the circumstances.

            jb

      2. Marc Zahn says:

        Yes, it does. I thank you for your fast support. A year ago I was unable to find this out, or did this policy and procedure change recently? Are they using the main form or is there a spousal only form?

        1. jblankenship says:

          This has been available since at least March, 2013 – I wrote an article about it at that time. It’s the same form for spousal benefits as your own benefits.

          jb

  120. Bob Long says:

    Jim,
    Sue qualifies for the divorced spouse restricted application and can file next year. She does not have any record of her former spouse’s social security number. We’ve looked everywhere. Divorced in 1991. She threw everything out except the divorce decree. Her divorce lawyer went to prison. We checked public records. We don’t think her former spouse will provide his SS# to her. Will Social Security help her out or do you have any other suggestions?

    Her former spouse didn’t earn much over his career and has been on social security since around 2002 (estimated). We would like to find out what her payment would be so that we can decide to take the divorced spouse option and delay Sue’s to 70, or to take her benefit at 66 instead of delaying to 70. Will SS provide this information prior to Sue being able to file?
    Bob

    1. jblankenship says:

      With proof of the marriage and divorce she should be able to get information about the potential ex-spouse benefits that are available to her.

      jb

  121. Beverly Nias says:

    Hi,

    This is our situation: hubby is 58 (FRA 66.5 benefit 2457), I am 55 (FRA 67 benefit 2047). We had considered so many different scenarios that I can’t keep track!! What would you say are our best options? The way things look we may not need the money to live off of but we want to maximize our benefits.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Beverly –

      If you don’t need the money for cash flow, the way to maximize your benefits could be a couple of ways:

      1) you file for your benefit (being the smaller of the two) at age 62. Then when your husband reaches FRA he can file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, until he reaches age 70.
      2) at your FRA, your husband files and suspends. You file a restricted application for spousal benefits only. Then at each of your ages 70, you file for the maximum benefit.

      In #1, you are receiving a reduced benefit but for the maximum number of years, and your husband receives a spousal benefit for a few years before receiving the maximized benefit. In #2 you’re both maximizing benefits, and you are receiving a spousal benefit based on your husband’s record for 3 years before receiving the maximum. One optimizes cash flow over your lifetime, the other optimizes benefit amounts.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Beverly says:

        Thank you JB for your reply. If we utilize option 2 my hubby will be 70 when I reach FRA. He will have to file. We had considered option 1 as one of the scenarios. I guess given our age differences these are the only two options available to us.

        1. Beverly says:

          Sorry just thought of another question. If my hubby files and suspends at FRA, then waits until 70 to collect I will be 67 which is my FRA, and I file a RA at what amount am I getting 50% of, his amount at FRA or his max benefit? I have read that SS gives the higher benefit of the two (your own record or half of the spouse’s).

          1. jblankenship says:

            Spousal benefit is always at maximum 50% of the other spouse’s PIA, which is the amount he’d receive at his FRA.

            jb

        2. jblankenship says:

          Sorry, wasn’t paying close enough attention to your ages.

  122. Diane Taylor says:

    Would this strategy work? Husband begins SS at age 63. At age 66 + 10 months he suspends and simultaneously wife files for spousal benefit as she turns 66. At age 70 husband agains takes SS. When wife turns 70 she switches to her own (full) benefit.

    Thank you!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that would work.

      jb

      1. Leslie says:

        Wouldn’t Husband have to repay the SS he received from age 63 to FRA to be able to suspend benefits? I thought that when you filed it was your filing date, and unless you restored the funds you were paid you could not start the clock ticking again.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Leslie –

          What you’re referring to is a withdrawal. In order to withdraw your application and reset as if you had never received benefits, you must pay back all received benefits, including all benefits received by others based on that account. This can only be done once and must be done within 12 months of your filing date.

          Suspend can be done at any time after you’ve reached FRA – regardless of when you originally filed the application for benefits. While your benefits are suspended, others can still receive benefits based on your record, and your own record will accrue delay credits during the suspended period.

          Hope this helps –

          jb

  123. Ken says:

    Hi Jim,
    I am 65 and spouse is 64. Wanting to maximize both benefits, based on my research, my intent was to file and suspend when I reach FRA and have my spouse file a RA for Spousal benefit at her FRA at 66. She would draw about $1000 and I would delay my draw until age 70. She only worked part-time, has stopped working, and would never exceed a $1000 draw on her own record. Thought that was the best scenario for me, but a couple of weeks ago a well-known financial advisor was on the Today Show and she discussed a scenario similar to mine and her advice to maximize benefits was for the lesser-earning spouse to begin drawing on their own record at 62, then file an RA and switch to the Spousal benefit when reaching FRA and the other spouse files-and-suspends at which time she would draw an amount equal to half of his amount. (I played this back several times to make sure I heard her right.) This is not correct is it? Once she files on her own record, she cannot file a RA, right?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Ken –

      The recommendation is partly correct. Your wife can file on her own and then later file a RA, but she wouldn’t receive 50% of your PIA at that stage. Whatever amount of reduction occurs by her early filing would follow to the spousal benefit.

      For example, if she was due a benefit of $400 at her FRA, and she filed at age 62 she would receive $300. Then at FRA she could file the RA (after you’ve filed and suspended) and receive the “excess” spousal benefit. Excess is calculated by subtracting her PIA from 50% of your PIA. So if her PIA was $400 and 50% of yours is $1,000, the excess is $600. The excess spousal benefit would then be added to her reduced benefit, for a total of $900.

      For some couples this makes sense, especially if the dollar amount of reduction is relatively small (as was the case in my example). This way she’s receiving 4 years’ worth of benefits, albeit reduced, and then “almost” the same as the spousal benefit ($900 versus $1,000) at FRA.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Ken says:

        Okay, so filing an RA for “excess” spousal benefit after having previously claimed on your own record is allowed, its just that the benefit will be reduced. What’s confusing me is your wording above in the original article for the definition of a Restricted Application: “This is where an individual, who is at least Full Retirement Age, has not filed for any benefits previously,…” I have seen similar wording elsewhere and it sounds as if filing an RA for spousal benefits after filing for benefits previously is not allowed. I need to examine her real numbers closely and decide if it is worth the reduced benefit forever, but it seems as if delaying for a full benefit in my case is the better option if my objective is maximizing both benefits. Her numbers would be close to your example, but she would be filing at 64 instead of at 62. Thanks for the very helpful web site. Negotiating thru all of the SSA double-talk is very confusing and stressful!

        1. jblankenship says:

          Ken – I understand the confusion. Typically filing for the excess spousal benefit is not desired, so that’s why the description is worded as it is. The other part is that if the individual has filed for his own benefit previously and that benefit is greater than the spousal, a RA isn’t feasible either.

          jb

  124. Den Jeffers says:

    Can one File and Suspend without having to go to a social security office? Can it be done all online through the social security.gov website?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Den, it can be done online, but there is not a checkbox or other option to indicate that you intend to suspend. You have to write this out in the free-form comments section at the end of the application process.

      jb

  125. Jeff says:

    Does one have to pay taxes on income once full retirement age is reached?
    We plan to only have social security and my pension when my wife and I reach full retirment age. If we work for any amount of money, is that taxed?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If the total of your non-SS income (pension, retirement withdrawals, part-time work) plus 50% of you SS benefits is greater than $32,000, a portion of your SS benefit will become taxable. If your total of the above figures is greater than $44,000, then up to 85% of your SS benefit (the maximum) will be taxable.

      jb

  126. Jeff says:

    I will turn 67 in March 2017 and my wife will turn 66 one day before me. Is it wise for me to take my full social security at age 67 and have my wife file a restricted application and take half of my benefit amount and let hers grow to age 70? At age 66, my wife would not receive any more than what she would get if she took half of mine and let hers grow. My wife works less than part time currently and her income is irregular.At age 67, my SS amount would be about $2,100 so I am thinking my wife could receive about $1,000 by filing the restricted application.

    At the present time we have about $60k in two IRA’s and an annuity which can not be touched at this time and no 401k. I have a disability pension already in play which would be more income per month. I am currently working full time, however, would like to stop at age 67 if this plan is workable. Age 70 would be a bit much for me to continue to work full time. Of course our financial adviser says to persevere until age 70. We can pay all the bills, etc with some money left over if we do the above not taking into consideration inflation.

    This is a second marriage for both of us and when I received the pension I was not married at the time and had to take the full amount. She is unable to be a beneficiary for the pension so when I die the pension stops at that time. Term insurance in play until age 70 to help pay for the mortgage and a car. If I die today, the full time pay and the pension stops and my wife has only the term insurance to fall back on to make the payments.

    Any recommendations or suggestions would be appreciated especially from Mr. Blankenship.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Jeff –

      If you’re asking if your suggested course of action is allowed, the answer is yes. If you’re asking if I think it is your best strategy, I don’t know enough about your overall situation to hazard a guess.

      One observation regarding your advisor’s recommendation to delay: especially given your concerns about your wife’s wherewithal upon your death, delaying to age 70 would maximize not only your own benefit payment, but also the widow’s benefit available to your wife from Social Security.

      Of course, if cash flow doesn’t allow this to be practical, you must do what you must do.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Jeff says:

        Thank you, Jim, for your reply. I do understand your answer and waiting until age 70 makes sense except for working until I drop. Another adviser suggested we use file and suspend and live off our shallow portfolio until age 70 and then take social security. Sounds good until we figured out how much was there to live on and it was not that much. So, perhaps my wife taking the restricted filing and getting half of my social security and letting hers grow makes sense. If I get $2k she would get $1k, correct? Then hers grows at 8% a year until age 70?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, your calculation looks correct.

          jb

  127. Mike says:

    Thanks for all the good information. I have a couple questions:

    1 – Am I correct that if I will reach age 70 before my wife reaches her FRA there is no benefit to me Filing and Suspending and she Filing a Restricted Application?

    2A – Does the File and Suspend process work the same for the child benefit as for the spousal benefit, i.e. my child would qualify at my FRA if I File and Suspend, but continue to work till age 70, continuing to increase my benefit?

    2B – How does my child’s working income affect his benefit amount?

    Mike

    1. jblankenship says:

      Mike –

      1 – There is one benefit to file & suspend in your case: by doing so, you have available the option to change your mind between your file & suspend date and age 70 and receive the retroactive lump sum of benefits as if you had filed and not suspended on that date, and then continue receiving benefits as of that (earlier) filing age. In some cases this can be helpful – such as if your wife predeceases you and you have reason to believe you won’t live much beyond age 70. Otherwise, no additional benefit to file & suspend in that situation unless you have other potential beneficiaries that could benefit (such as a young child).

      2A – Yes, that’s correct.

      2B – The child’s earnings can cause a reduction to his or her benefit. If greater than $15,720 (in 2015), for every $2 more than the limit, $1 is withheld from benefits. There is no credit later for this withheld benefit in the case of a child’s benefit as there is for a retiree’s own benefit.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  128. Doug says:

    Jim,

    My spouse is 62 and recently began receiving SS disability benefits equal to her PIA. I am 65. Next year, at my FRA, can I file a restricted application and receive a spousal benefit equal to one-half of her PIA/Disability Benefit until I reach age 70? Or must I wait until she reaches her FRA to commence receiving a spousal benefit?

    Thanks.

    Doug

    1. jblankenship says:

      Doug –

      I could be wrong, but I believe you will be eligible at 66 to file a restricted application for spousal benefits based on your wife’s SSDI benefit, at a rate of 50%. I think that’s correct – but call SSA to make sure before you plan on it.

      jb

  129. gregory brusseau says:

    JIm, thank you for doing this. I am at FRA in August 2015 and intend to work until August 2017. My wife will be 62 in 2017 and eligible for SS in August 2017 and I will be 68 .

    What would be the best strategy for us? Should I take SS now and work? F & S and work? Should she file for spousal in Aug 2017 or Restricted in Aug 2107 or her own SS?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hello Gregory –

      This is a much larger question than can be answered in the comments.

      For starters, you don’t indicate what your benefits may be; in addition, you haven’t indicated whether there is a need for the cash flow now, or if delaying to increase benefits is your ultimate goal. With more information I can provide you with some guidance – but of course it must be limited here. If you’d like to engage us for a complete review, please call or write the office and we’ll talk it over.

      jb

  130. jcharatz says:

    Hi Jim, in a couple of years, at my FRA of 66, my wife will be 62. My projected monthly benefit at FRA is $2674 per month. If I wait until age 70, my benefit will be $3558 per month. My wife’s benefit based on her earnings (she has not worked since 1986) is $562 at age 62, $753 at age 66, and $985 at age 70. What is our best strategy for maximizing our total benefits?

  131. Lester says:

    Jim,

    My friend divorced her husband of 20 years, the’ve been divorced for 19 years, she never remarried and will reach FRA in 2 years. Her ex has already started his SS benefit,. Can she file a restricted app when she reaches FRA and draw a benefit, which will allow hers to grow by 8% per year to age 70?

    Thanks, this the best place I’ve ever found for social security explanations! You are doing a great service!

    LH

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hello Lester – thank you for the kind words.

      Your friend can definitely file a restricted application at FRA. This will provide her with the full spousal benefit and allow her to delay her own benefit as you described.

      jb

  132. Chris Niedzielski-Eichner says:

    Jim, this has been a great site for understanding both concepts. A colleague shared a strategy that was give to him that raises a question I have not seen asked here.
    Secondary earner filed standard application at 64y5m. Primary earner 66y3mthen filed restricted application for spousal benefit based on secondary’s earnings record.
    When primary earner turns 70y will file for own benefit.
    Here is the part that I don’t get–Secondary earner will become entitled to an additional spousal benefit at this time.
    Can you explain this?
    Thanks,
    Chris NE

    1. jblankenship says:

      Chris –

      If the secondary earner’s PIA is something less than 50% of the primary earner’s PIA, then absolutely when the primary has filed for benefits the secondary is due an increase to benefits for the spousal “excess”. This is due to the same principle that allowed the secondary to receive spousal benefits via restricted application.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Chris NE says:

        Jim,
        Thanks, yes that answers my question.
        One more question that I have not seen addressed: say both spouses have worked at SS maximum their entire careers. And their current estimates from the SS website are over $40K per year at age 70. If they do defer until then, will they really receive that amount or is there a maximum per couple/family?
        Thanks
        Chris

        1. jblankenship says:

          Chris –

          Great question! While there is a family maximum benefit limit, the limit is per worker’s record, and it’s related to the PIA of the worker, ranging between 150% and 180% of the PIA. In the situation you describe, there are two workers, and no one else is drawing a benefit based on that PIA. The maximum amount that any numberholder (worker) can receive on his or her own record is 132% of PIA, so effectively the family maximum does not apply.

          Hope this helps –

          jb

  133. […] are further differences between these two provisions, and when can you use one or the other to get the most monthly benefit […]

  134. […] are further differences between these two provisions, and when can you use one or the other to get the most monthly benefit […]

  135. […] are further differences between these two provisions, and when can you use one or the other to get the most monthly benefit […]

  136. Greg says:

    If an individual files a restricted benefit at FRA based on their ex-spouse’s record, does that start the “clock” for a retroactive lump sum benefit or are they still limited to the 6-month period? For example, this individual claims restrictive benefits until age 69 but then develops a terminal illness. Can they retroactively switch back to their own benefit as of FRA and receive the difference of their benefit versus what was paid out from the ex-spouse benefit? If not, how does Social Security treat the 6-month look back period?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Greg –

      The “clock” you’re talking about for retroactive benefits is not the restricted application, but rather file & suspend. Restricted application is the anti-file & suspend in that sense – you are specifically NOT filing for your own benefit when you file a restricted application, so retroactive benefits to FRA would not be available.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  137. Jim Potts says:

    I will be 68 in November, my wife is 65. Both of us still work. Neither of us has filed for any type of SS benefit yet. My wife will file a restricted application for spousal benefits on my record when turns 66 next year. Should I have already filed and suspended my benefits to set a filing date or is it OK to wait until next year when we can do it at the social security office at the same time.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Jim, you can file and suspend at any time. The earlier the better (after FRA) because it gives you the option of going back to get retroactive benefits if you should choose to change your mind at some point before age 70. But as long as you file and suspend at least by the time your wife files the restricted application you should be ok.

      jb

      1. Jim Potts says:

        Thanks for your reply. I was not aware of this option. What is retroactive benefits and how does it relate to file and suspend? I thought F&S was only for my wife to get spousal benefits while be both wait until 70 to collect full benefits.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Jim – In addition to providing your wife the ability to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, the act of file & suspend also sets a filing date for you. This makes it possible for you to change your mind and receive a lump-sum retroactive benefit from that filing date forward (or any date in between) as long as it’s before you reach age 70 and file for your delay credit-enhanced benefit. Then you would continue receiving the benefit from that date forward at the earlier benefit amount.

          Hope this helps –

          jb

  138. Kim Wasson says:

    My husband is 66 and he filed for SS at age 62. I will reach FRA in October but plan on working for the next 2 to 4 years. Would the restricted application work for us in this scenario?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, if you file a restricted application at FRA, you’ll be able to collect a spousal benefit while you delay your own benefit for the next 2 to 4 years, accruing delay credits over time.

      jb

      1. Kim Wasson says:

        Is there any benefit for me to file and suspend at FRA and then file for restricted application? I see that both way I would still accrue the 8%; however, I would hate to leave any money on the table that we could potentially make.

        1. jblankenship says:

          When you file and suspend, you have established a filing date. If you have established a filing date, the only spousal benefit that you are eligible to receive is the excess – 50% of your spouse’s PIA minus your own PIA. If this turns out to be negative, you would receive no spousal benefit at all. If your intent is to delay your own benefit as long as possible you would be unnecessarily reducing the spousal benefit (or eliminating it altogether).

          On the other hand, you can only file a restricted application if you have not established a filing date, and you can only file this at or after your FRA. By filing a restricted application, you are eligible for the full amount of the spousal benefit (50% of your spouse’s FRA-age benefit) with no reduction. Your spouse must have established a filing date for his or her retirement benefit to enable you to file the restricted application.

          Does that help?

          jb

          1. Kim Wasson says:

            Now I’m not sure I understand. My spouse is already collecting his SS benefit payment which he filed for when he retired at age 62. (4 yrs prior to receiving his full retirement benefits) so by his doing this does it eliminate my filing a restricted application and being eligible for spousal benefits while I continue to work?

            Sorry to be so bothersome:-(

          2. jblankenship says:

            No, not at all. By virtue of the fact that your husband has filed and you have not filed for your own benefit (including file & suspend), you are eligible to file a restricted application for Spousal Benefits only when you reach FRA. In that case you would receive a Spousal Benefit equal to 50% of your husband’s PIA, and you could receive this while allowing your own benefit to accrue the delay credits up to age 70.

            But, if you file & suspend, filing a restricted application would result in only your ability to receive the excess Spousal Benefit, if any, over and above the amount of your PIA (your FRA benefit). In your second response you asked if it would benefit you to file & suspend and then file a restricted application. Most definitely not, as I have explained.

            Hope this helps –

            jb

  139. Tom K. Reis says:

    JB–

    Thanks much for your explanations and descriptions of the various SS benefits/options–you are truly a model of civic participation!

    Here is my situation and question:

    I will turn 66 (FRA) on July 26, 2015. My wife hits FRA in February of 2017. I want to File and Suspend and likely not take any benefits until my 70th B-Day. My wife would then file a Restricted Application when she hits FRA and then collect up to 50% of my PIA from her 66th B-Day until my 70th B-Day (as I understand it when I hit 70 and begin to take benefits she can no longer receive the 50% of my PIA).

    My question is: when and how do I apply (File and Suspend)? Must I wait until my 66th B-Day (July 26, 2015)? Can I do it online and if so is there some sort of obvious place to immediately suspend once I have filed? Is it easier to do it all via phone or in person (which I sort of dread…)?

    Any details on the timing and process would be most appreciated!

    Thanks, Tom R.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hello Tom –

      Thank you for your kind words. I’m gratified to know that what I do is meaningful.

      With regard to your question – first of all, your wife could continue receiving the spousal benefit (50% of your PIA) indefinitely, this doesn’t stop at your age 70. At her age 70, depending on her PIA, she might want to file for her own benefit since it would be maximized at that point. If her increased benefit based on her own earnings is not more than 50% of your PIA, she’d just continue receiving that same amount.

      Regarding file & suspend: You can do this online, but there’s not an obvious checkbox to do it. You have to write out in the free-form “instructions” box at the end of the application that you wish to file for your benefit but immediately suspend payment of benefits. That should do the trick. I would follow up via phone after a few days to make sure they get the point, just to be sure. You don’t want to receive the first check after they jam things up over there at SSA and then figure out how to repay and suspend, while still having your filing in place (talk about things to dread!).

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Tom K. Reis says:

        Thanks JB!

        Very clear answer…just one follow up on the timing of my filing. Can I do so right now or must I wait until I am 66 (July 26, 2015)? thx, tom

        1. jblankenship says:

          Tom – you can do it now – just make sure that they understand your effective date is upon reaching FRA (which is actually August 1 – the first full month when you’re age 66).

          jb

  140. rory says:

    my wife is 66 yrs old,birthday jan13. fra benefit of $1520.
    I am 62 yrs old, birthday nov 7th, fra benefit of $2458.

    Neither of us has filed for SS yet. I was recently laid off, and we are going to need to start supplementing our income with , at least, the wife’s fra benefit, beginning in jan next year.

    Are there any strategies that would work for us, other than just a straight forward claiming of the wife’s ss ?
    thanks,
    Rory

    1. jblankenship says:

      Rory –

      If you’re hoping to delay your own benefit in order to maximize, unfortunately the only strategy that you have available to you is for your wife to file for her own benefit. If maximizing your benefit isn’t a high priority, you might consider the following:

      You could file for your own retirement benefit and receive a reduced amount. Your wife could then file a restricted application for Spousal Benefits based on your record, receiving 50% of your FRA benefit. If you waited until your 63rd birthday to do this, your own benefit would be 80% of your FRA benefit, or approximately $1,966, and your wife would be receiving approximately $1,229, for a total of $3,195.

      Then when your wife reaches her age 70 she could file for her own benefit, which would be increased due to delay credits, and receive approximately $2,006 (plus COLAs). You could at that point either continue receiving your own reduced benefit.

      But if cash flow isn’t a problem at that time you could suspend your benefits and begin accruing delay credits calculated against your reduced 80% benefit. If you suspend, at a maximum you might increase your benefit by age 70 to $2,595 (plus COLAs), but as a household you would be only receiving the $2,006 (your wife’s benefit) for those four years until you reached age 70.

      The above may not be an attractive option, but it’s an alternative that could provide you with some additional cash flow at the present if that’s your primary need, and it could provide a way to increase benefits later on.

      jb

  141. Suny says:

    My previous message was to ‘Jim’ not John, sorry.

  142. Suny says:

    Hi John, I have a question about the termination of my pension. The company I used to work for is offering a lump sum distribution next year. I am FRA and would like to know how they calculate what my distribution would be. Is it based on life expectancy and if so how is that calculated? The said they need to pass the termination through the IRS, etc. I am 62 and the monthly amount was going to be a small amount of $323.00

    Thank you for your answer to my previous question. It’s really nice to have someone to ask! I couldn’t find a blog on this particular subject, so I used this one from my SS question. If there are other more appropriate discussions, I would appreciate your directing me to the location.

    Suny

    1. jblankenship says:

      That’s a question for your plan administrator, Suny. I imagine they use an actuarial table and produce an annuity figure from the lump sum.

  143. Steve Laudicino says:

    Jblankenship
    My wife is 67 years old and is currently collecting Social Security. She started collecting at her full retirement age of 66. She receives $1003 a month
    I will be approaching full retirement age of 66 in July. I intend to work until I am 70.
    My plan is to file and suspend in July of 2015. If I took my benefit at 66 it would have been $2,634.
    My wife files a restricted application for spousal benefits after I file & suspend in July. She will collect 50% of my benefit.
    I file for my own benefits when I turn 70 as well as my wife files for her own benefits when she reaches her 70th birthday.
    Does this meet all of the requirements & rules of Social Security?
    Are there any issues I am not considering?
    Thanks
    Steve

    1. jblankenship says:

      Steve,

      The part of your plan that isn’t workable is when your wife reaches age 70, she will only continue to receive the Spousal Benefit based on your earnings record at that time. Since she filed for her own benefit prior to filing for the Spousal Benefit, she effectively will only receive the larger of the two (her own versus the Spousal). It is possible for her to suspend her own benefit when beginning the Spousal benefit, but then she’d only receive the “excess” Spousal Benefit, ~$314, until she re-files for her own benefit later. If she achieves 2.5 years of delay credits, that would still only have her up to about $1,300, so it doesn’t seem like that’s going to benefit her anyhow. In addition, she wouldn’t file a restricted application when you have filed and suspended, as she cannot restrict the application after she has filed for her own benefits (unless it’s been less than 12 months and she pays back all received benefits to-date). At that time she would just file for Spousal Benefits.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  144. John Price says:

    Jim,
    My wife will reach FRA in mid July,2015 with Estimated benefit of $1500.
    I will reach FRA at end of August,2015 with estimated benefit of $2100.
    Can she file for her benefit in July, then at end of August I file and suspend.
    Then she can file for a restricted application so I can get half of her benefit?
    Then at age 70, we both claim our own full benefit?
    Thanks, john

    1. Leslie says:

      No! She does nothing until you File and Suspend, and then she files a Restricted Applicaton to receive 50% of your FRA. If she files she gets her FRA and cannot suspend her filing unless she does a pay back – it makes more sense to wait the month. Sorry for jumping in here, but I am the voice of experience, and I learned it here.

    2. jblankenship says:

      John –

      If your wife files for her own benefit in July, she cannot then restrict her application later.

      If she has filed for her own benefit, you would be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits when you reach FRA, and then when you reach age 70 you could file for your own benefit which would have increased due to the delay credits. But your wife would have filed for her own benefit already, so she will either continue receiving that benefit for the rest of her life, or she could suspend (all benefits) until her age 70.

      Using your figures – In July your wife files for her own benefit. If she doesn’t suspend, she’ll receive $1,500 per month (plus COLAs) throughout her life. When you reach FRA in August, you can file a restricted application and receive $750 per month until you reach age 70 and file for your own benefits. You would be receiving a total household benefit of $2,250/month (wife’s $1,500 plus your $750) for the coming 4 years. Then at age 70 you would receive a 32% increase to your own benefit ($2,100 x 132% = $2,772) so at that age your total household benefit would be $4,272.

      On the other hand, your wife could suspend her benefits when she files. You would still be eligible for the restricted application for spousal benefits, receiving $750 per month. Then when your wife reaches FRA, she could have $1,980, and you would have $2,772 for a total household benefit of $4,752 at that age.

      If you’re going to only receive one of the spousal benefits and delay both of your retirement benefits, I’d suggest that you file and suspend, allowing your wife to file a restricted app to receive $1,050 over the coming four years, instead of $750 if she files and suspends and you file the restricted app.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  145. David says:

    I am FRA and my wife is 64. She is receiving $1584/mo based on her filing at age 64. If I file a restricted app will I receive 50% of her FRA which is $1963/mo or 50% of $1584? I called SSA and they told me it would be 50% of $1584.
    Thanks

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you’re at FRA, the Spousal Benefit should be 50% of your wife’s PIA if you file a restricted application. So that would be 50% of $1,963.

      jb

      1. David says:

        I’m getting a different answer from Social Security (I’ve called twice). They tell me I will receive half of $1584 due to her filing at age 64. I’ve searched all over the SS website but can’t find an example or description of this type of situation. Can you help guide me to where I can get confirmation?
        Thanks

        1. jblankenship says:

          David – in the SS POMS references there is the following (RS 00202.020.1.A):

          A. Policy

          1. Spouse

          The amount of a spouse’s benefit is as follows:
          If only one spouse is entitled, he or she receives one-half the PIA of the NH subject to the normal rules on adjustment for the maximum and the rounding of benefits, and subject to reduction for age.

          It is a clear fact that if the spouse applying for the benefit is at Full Retirement Age or older and has not been entitled to a retirement benefit previously, the Spousal Benefit is equal to 50% of the other spouse’s PIA – not the other spouse’s (potentially) reduced or increased benefit amount.

          Bottom line is that this is programmatic – the rep on the phone can tell you whatever story they want to tell, but the end result is that your benefit will be based on her PIA, not the reduced benefit she’s receiving.

          Hope this helps –
          jb

  146. Catherine Dimino says:

    I have 3 questions related to a filing a restricted application.

    (1) Do you have a copy of a Restricted Application showing what is needed to ensure receipt of only the spousal benefit and more importantly ensures my own benefit accrues delayed retirement credits? I understand an unequivocal statement has to be made, but I’m not sure what that statement is (see “Poms GN 00204.020D Scope of the Application/Policy – restricting the cope of the application” after my 3rd question).

    I called my local Social Security office June 5, 2015, a week before my birthday, stating I wanted an appointment on my birthday to file a restricted application for the spousal benefit while accruing delayed retirement credits. The scheduler requested my and my husband’s SSN number, and a few other pieces of information. When he mentioned File & Suspend, I told him I did NOT want to File & Suspend.

    (2) Have I established a filing date a week too early by just making the appointment? My biggest fear is discovering 4 years later that I didn’t accrue 8% per year. (3) Is there a way to check that my delayed retirement credits are accruing?

    Program Operations Manual System (Poms)
    GN 00204.020 Scope of the Application
    D. Policy – restricting the scope of the application
    1. General
    A claimant may choose to limit or restrict the scope of the application to exclude a class of benefits he or she may be eligible to on one or more SSNs for any reason (except where deemed filing applies). The reason may be to receive higher current benefits or to maximize the amount of benefits over a period of time, including the effect of delayed retirement credits (DRCs). (See RS 00615.480 for information on adjustment of the reduction factor.)
    a. Before adjudication
    The claimant must restrict the application before it is adjudicated.
    b. Unequivocal statements
    The claimant may restrict the application by completing appropriate blocks on the application or by signing an unequivocal statement that he or she does not wish to file for a specific benefit as follows:
    “I filed on (DATE) for all benefits for which I may be eligible except ___________”; or
    “I wish to exclude ________ benefits from the scope of this application.”
    Only unequivocal statements are acceptable. Qualifying phrases such as “at this time” or he or she plans to file in the future are not acceptable.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Catherine –

      There is no separate application called a “restricted application”. There is only the usual application, on which you denote that you are restricting the scope of your filing to spousal benefits only. There is a specific check-box for this on the online form. For a paper-filed form, you would enter the statement in the “Remarks” section of Form SSA-2-BK. The format of your statement is in the POMS reference under 1.b.

      By setting an appointment you have not established a filing date. Your filing date will be established when you file the application, and it can be back-dated by up to 6 months from the time of your filing.

      Regarding checking on the accrual of delay credits – I don’t know of a way to do that. You should ask the SSA staff about it if that’s a concern for you.

      jb

  147. John Randall says:

    Hello…
    My question is a little different than I’ve seen here. I’m 68 and filed for SS at FRA my wife flied for SS at 64. I’m still working and my wife is not. Is there any advantage to doing these…(or can we even do anything) 1. Reset, 2. File/Suspend, or 3. Restricted Application…which could benefit us at this time? My RIA is $2100 and wife’s is $850. Perhaps there is nothing which can be done now that we both filed…and is a lesson for others to understand. Because the SS office basically pushed me and my wife (gently albeit) to file when we did, on a phone call I received unsolicited, shortly before I was turning 66. Honestly, I was uninformed about all the great advice you are providing on this website. I don’t think the SS office is interested in helping any of us maximize our benefits! (Just my opinion, I realize). Thank you…
    John

    1. jblankenship says:

      John –

      If more than 12 months has passed since each of you filed, you can no longer reset/restart benefits. This would also remove the benefit of a restricted application strategy from your options as well. The one option that you have left is to suspend benefits – you could suspend now and receive delay credits between now and your age 70, which would have the effect of increasing your benefit by 8% for each full year, 2/3% for each month. If you don’t need the benefits to live on, that could be a good option for you.

      By the same token, your wife could suspend her benefit (if she’s receiving a benefit based solely on her own work record) when she reaches Full Retirement Age, and then re-file when she reaches age 70. This would increase the benefit based on her record by 8% per year (as described above). If she’s receiving a Spousal Benefit and that benefit is greater than her own benefit, then suspending at FRA would not likely be a good option for her – although if her own benefit was only slightly lower than the spousal benefit, suspending could still reap a minor reward for the delay.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. John Randall says:

        Thank you… Your website and service is awesome, by the way! Hope others heed your advice before they get too far inside the flawed SS system. Thank you again.

  148. boynton52 says:

    My husband and I are both 63 and retired. We have earned approximately the same amount of SS retirement benefit. He filed for his at age 62 and we are receiving $1500 a month. I am 63 and retired but have not made any Social Security application yet. As I understand your post, if I wait till FRA, I can apply for a restricted application and receive 50% of his benefit while allowing mine to accrue till I claim it at age 70. Is this accurate? Thanks for any info.

    1. jblankenship says:

      boynton52,

      That’s absolutely correct!

      jb

  149. Jim Gallagher says:

    Hi Jim,
    Thank you for this information. I think it confirms my plan.
    I will reach FRA in March, 2018 with an estimated benefit of $2,204. My wife will reach FRA in September, 2018 with an estimated benefit of $1,804.
    Our plan is for my wife to file for her benefit at FRA. On the same date I will file a restricted application for spousal benefits and receive $902. At age 70, I will file for my own benefit with a 32% premium.
    Am I on track?
    Thanks, Jim G

    1. jblankenship says:

      Looks like a great plan! This should work very well for you.

      jb

  150. Terry says:

    I am at FRA and my wife is 64 – she started taking her benefits at age 63 — we are considering the following: hypothetical numbers – my PIA at FRA is 3400 and my wife;s is 1100:

    1. I will file and suspend now

    2. We will exercise the “do over” for my wife (we are within 12 months)

    3. My wife will then file for a spousal and it cannot be restricted given she is not at FRA — her spousal will always be greater than her PIA.

    4. I plan to file a spousal on my wife’s give she set a filing date with the spousal and I am at FRA – I file a restricted application (correct)?

    flaws or gaps — or mi-understandings — Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hi Terry –

      Well, there is a primary flaw in your plan, that you both cannot be receiving spousal benefits from one another at the same time. Here are a couple of alternative scenarios that you could employ:

      1) you could file and suspend now
      2) your wife could file for spousal benefits now (either with or without a do-over, that’s your call, and the dollar difference would be, I believe, negligible)
      3) you then file for your own benefit (with delay credits) at age 70

      OR:
      1) your wife either keeps her current benefit or does the do-over (see above)
      2) you file a restricted application for spousal benefits
      3) you file for your own benefit at age 70
      4) once you’ve filed, your wife can file for spousal benefits

      OR:
      1) your wife withdraws her current application and pays back all benefits (do-over)
      2) you file and suspend now at your FRA
      3) at your wife’s FRA, she files for all available benefits (essentially only spousal since it will always be higher even if she received the 32% delay credits)
      4) you file for your own benefit at age 70

      In the first scenario, the combined benefits for you and your wife from this point forward would be approximately $1,381 (her age 63 benefit of $880 + the reduced age 65 spousal excess of $501) or $1,454 (her age 64 benefit if she does the do-over, of $953 + $501). She would receive that benefit amount for her lifetime or until your death, whichever comes first. At your age 70 you’d receive $4,488, which would also be her survivor benefit if you pre-decease her. Total benefits per month for the two of you at your age 70 would be $5,869 or $5,942 depending upon the do-over.

      In the second scenario, your wife will receive either $880 or $954 (with the do-over) and you would receive $550 in spousal benefits – this is a total benefit of either $1,430 or $1,504, and you would receive this for four years. At your age 70 you would receive $4,488 as in the first scenario, and your wife would be eligible for an increase of $600 for the excess spousal benefit. At this point her total benefit would be either $1,480 or $1,554 depending on the do-over, and your combined benefit would be either $5,968 or $6,042.

      In the third scenario, your wife would receive nothing between now and her FRA. At her FRA, she receives a total benefit of $1,700. At your age 70 you file for your own benefit with the delay credits and receive $4,488. Your combined benefit at that point is $6,188.

      There are many more scenarios to play out, but these are the first ones that come to mind for me to maximize your benefits. It is important to note that the key question is whether you want a larger benefit today or at your age 70.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  151. […] help with understanding, have a look at this prior article File & Suspend and Restricted Application are NOT Equal. There are a few examples toward the end of the article which will likely help illustrate the […]

  152. ann says:

    Hi John: My husband will received his ss this July (he will be 70 at that time), and I will be 62 at that time, and want to apply for ss check, and I understand I will received only 75% of if I start at FRA, can I restrict my own benefit and wait till I am 70 to get it, and file for the spouse benefit ( I understand it will also be 75% only)

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hello Ann –

      If you are filing at age 62 you will not be able to restrict your application to spousal benefits only. That is only available once you’ve reached FRA. If you file for your own benefit prior to your husband filing for his benefit (if the timing works out that way) then you could file only for your retirement benefit and then wait until you reach FRA to file for spousal benefits, which may or may not result in an increase depending upon your benefit amount versus your husband’s benefit amount. If he has filed for his own benefit prior to your reaching age 62, if you file for any benefit (prior to reaching FRA) you are deemed to have filed for all available benefits and therefore could not delay the spousal benefit.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  153. Larry says:

    Jim, is there any benefit to using file and suspend if one has never been married? I have now been retired for close to a year, will be 67 in September, and have been living entirely off my IRA with the intention of starting benefits at age 70. This puts me over the standard recommendation for a 4% SWR, but my reasoning is that if I do so temporarily, my SS benefits will increase to the point where at age 70 most of my expenses can be satisfied from SS and I will need much less from the IRA portfolio. I’m just wondering if I should use file and suspend, as I have heard that may be beneficial even if I’m not going to claim benefits for another three years. Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Larry –

      First of all – kudos to you, that’s an excellent strategy. Most folks think it to be counterintuitive to use their savings (IRAs, etc.) early, but as you point out, the SS benefits will make up the difference. Plus SS benefits have 3 things going for them that other resources may not: 1) lasts for your lifetime, no matter how long you live (longevity insurance; 2) inflation protection (annual COLAs); and 3) favorable tax treatment (85% maximum taxed).

      With regard to your question about File & Suspend for a single person – this can be useful if an unforeseen event should occur that would cause a need for a lump sum of benefits and/or a shortened distribution period for the SS benefits. Think of, for example, if you contracted a life-shortening disease at your age 69. If you have filed and suspended, you could request retroactive benefits to be paid to you from the time of your filing up to the present date, and then continue to receive benefits as if you had never suspended.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Larry says:

        Thanks, Jim. Perhaps you remember me from the time when Mike Piper was taking comments on ObliviousInvestor. This strategy was in fact suggested by Mike but I wanted a second opinion. I can add a fourth reason for the approach I’m taking: if I withdraw temporarily from the IRA at an accelerated rate, I may have a smaller balance that I must take to satisfy my RMDs precisely at the point when I’ll be starting SS benefits. And the larger the percentage of my expenses funded from SS, the smaller the amount of other income that would cause those benefits to be more highly taxed.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Absolutely – although it doesn’t happen that way for many people (either the IRA is much larger or much smaller) that’s another great advantage.

          jb

  154. Suny says:

    Hi Jim, I’m divorced and neither of us has remarried. I plan to wait until FRA and would like to delay my benefits until 70. Could I file and suspend at FRA and then file a restricted application to claim my ex-spouses benefits collecting that amount for 4 years until I am 70, then switch to my own? He began receiving benefits at age 62, so I’m assuming I would collect 50% of the reduced benefit. In addition, would I actually need to file and suspend to ensure my benefits would accrue the delayed retirement credit? By the way your website is awesome! Thanks, Suny

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hello Suny – Your strategy will work with one exception: you would not file and suspend at FRA, this is mutually exclusive with filing a restricted application. You would only file a restricted application at FRA, and would NOT file and suspend. This would allow you to receive the spousal benefit for the succeeding 4 years and then file for your own benefit at age 70.

      jb

  155. Dave Geck says:

    John – I think I get it but I have thought that before… I am 62 with a PIA of $2680. My wife is 61 with a PIA of $1000. I do not intend to collect on my account until age 70 to maximize the death benefit. She intends to file at 62 receiving $750 / month. At my FRA could I file an RA and receive $500/ month based on her record. Then when I am 70 I would file on my account and get $3537 / month (1.32 times my PIA and my wife could then file for spousal rates and receive $1090 ($750 from her record and $1340 ( half my PIA) -$1000 (her PIA.))

    Thanks – Dave

    1. jblankenship says:

      Dave,
      I’m not sure who John is, so I’ll respond.

      I believe you’ve got it – the strategy that you’ve outlined is technically correct and the calculations are correct as well.

      jb

      1. Dave Geck says:

        Thanks. John was in example 1 & 2 and the name stuck with me.

  156. bombacho says:

    hi , i read your most informative article” File & Suspend and Restricted Application are NOT Equal” and the post responses and i think i get it but i just wanted to run this by you. my wife will reach fra in may 2019. her benefit at that time will be $1256. i will reach fra march 2020. my benefit at that time will be $2680. we are both in relatively good health and plan to keep on working as to age 70 if possible. if my understanding is correct she should wait until i reach fra. i will fill and suspend at that time and she can than file a restricted application for spousal benefit which she will be able to collect until age 70 at which time she can suspend the spousal benefit and collect her own benefit which will have grown to $1907. is this the correct way to proceed in this scenario or is there any way for her to collect a benefit for 9 month interval between her reaching fra and my reaching fra?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I believe you’ve got it correct, bombacho. Unfortunately there is no way to allow your wife to collect spousal benefits during the period prior to your reaching FRA, unless you were to forgo the delay credits on your own benefit by filing early.

      jb

  157. Bob Long says:

    Can my ex-spouse and I each employ the following strategy:
    Married over 18 years. Divorced in 1990. Neither re-married.
    Both will be entitled to near maximum SS benefit based on each person’s own earnings record.
    Both will be 66 in May 2016. At that time each files a restricted application to claim ex-spouse benefits for age 66 to 70, then each will be switched to own benefit at age 70?
    Neither would “file and suspend”?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Absolutely, Bob. That’s an excellent strategy that will work for both of you.

  158. editorbill says:

    John, I’m confused by paragraph 3 (and first sentence of paragraph 4) in your Example 1. To wit: If John had filed and not suspended, wouldn’t the restricted application option still be available to his spouse when she reached FRA?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that’s correct, Joyce would be eligible for spousal benefits if John did not suspend. But then John would not have maximized his own benefit, which was one of the first lines in the example – they want to maximize the benefits available to them.

      jb

      1. Mark Fettket says:

        Sorry to add a question the subject. It has been very educational and interesting.

        My wife and I are both retired and both age 64. Our retirement benefits are about equal. She is currently receiving SS benefits based on her record. I plan to leave mine go till age 70 so whichever of us survives has a maximum benefit to draw on.

        Here’s my question: At my FRA I plan to apply for a spousal benefit. I know I can do the Restricted Application method. Why wouldn’t doing the File and Suspend, and then applying for spousal benefits accomplish the same thing?

        Thank you,
        Mark F.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Given that the article you’re commenting on goes to great length to explain the answer to your question, I am taken aback by your question.

          However, my goal is to make this as understandable as possible, so I’ll try once more:

          When you file and suspend, you have established a filing date. If you have established a filing date, the only spousal benefit that you are eligible to receive is the excess – the spousal benefit minus your own benefit. If this turns out to be negative, you would receive no spousal benefit at all. If your intent is to delay your own benefit as long as possible (as you stated in your message) you would be unnecessarily reducing the spousal benefit (or eliminating it altogether).

          On the other hand, you can only file a restricted application if you have not established a filing date, and you can only file this at or after your FRA. By filing a restricted application, you are eligible for the full amount of the spousal benefit (50% of your spouse’s FRA-age benefit) with no reduction. Your spouse must have established a filing date for her retirement benefit to enable you to file the restricted application.

          Does that help?

          jb

          1. Mark Fettket says:

            Yes, that does help. Thank you for clarifying the situation for me. Thanks again, Mark

          2. Karl says:

            Hello, I’m actually taken aback that you’re taken aback at Mark’s question. Your examples in the article are great, but the first part of the article was anything but clear. If you replaced the first part of your article with your reply to Mark’s question above, this would be the best article on the Internet.

          3. jblankenship says:

            Thanks for the feedback, Karl.

            Please understand that I was not taken aback because I felt the article was flawless. My reaction was not to the question (there are no “dumb” questions) but rather to the fact that I didn’t achieve what I set out to do, at least for Mark.

            jb

  159. JanB says:

    This is still not clear to me. My husband is 75 and started his benefits at age 62. I’ll be 62 soon. Can I claim half of his benefit (when I am age 62) and then switch to my own higher benefit when I am 66? Or, can you only claim the spousal benefit and then switch to your own higher benefit later IF you have already reached FRA? A financial person is telling my husband that I can claim half his benefit when I’m 62 and switch later, but I thought you could only do that after you reach full retirement age.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’re correct, Jan. You are not allowed to only collect the spousal benefit until you have reached FRA. Filing for spousal benefit now would also cause you to file for your own benefit, and you’d effectively only receive the higher of the two, permanently reduced benefits.

      jb

  160. Leslie says:

    So, as I understand it, I need to forget about the words “File and Suspend” and just ask to file a “Restricted Application” when I go to the SSA office? My husband filed for SS benefits at age 66 last year, and I will be FRA this month (March). I have always been the one who made the most salary, year after year, and it would make the most sense to wait until age 70 to collect. I assume I am eligible to receive spousal benefit under the Restricted Application. Do I have the sequence correct, or am I way off base?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Leslie, I believe you have it right. The strategy you describe is likely to serve you very well.

      1. Leslie says:

        Thank you, Jim. I am headed in to the local Social Security office tomorrow to file my Restricted Application – I’ll let you know how it goes. I did speak to them on the phone today, and they were helpful in that they told me what documents I needed to bring to make the application.

      2. Leslie says:

        Today’s update: I walked in, told the SSA caseworker I was eligible for both FRA retirement and spousal benefits and I would like to restrict my application to spousal benefits. Minutes later I was all signed up, told I would get a check this month (!) since I turned 66 last month and they pay for the previous month – and I was out of there. Thanks so much, your advice was literally golden.

        1. jblankenship says:

          That’s wonderful news, Leslie. Glad to hear that everything worked out well for you!

          jb

  161. Karen GIbson says:

    Hello, My husband is 79 and will be 80 March 22 this year. He has been collecting social security since he was 62. I will be 62 March 12th this year. What would be my best options?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Karen –

      There are many variables that must be considered when determining the “best options” for your situation. I’ve listed a few of these below for you to consider:

      Do you need additional income now?
      Do you have other resources to draw upon while (potentially) delaying a few years?
      What is your husband’s health situation? Yours?
      What is the amount of your own benefit relative to his benefit?

      That sort of information is necessary to gain a better understanding of when is the best time for you to start drawing your benefit. I don’t expect to go over all of this in the comments here, but if you would like you can engage me to do a review for you. Just give me a call (phone is on the front page of the blog site).

      jb

  162. Jeff says:

    I am FRA but my spouse isn’t. Neither of us has ever filed for SS benefits. If my wife files now and I do the Restricted Application for her spousal benefit, can my wife get my the spousal benefit when I file at age 70? That amount will be greater than her own benefit at her FRA.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Jeff, she would be eligible for a Spousal Benefit increase when you have filed for your own benefit. She wouldn’t receive the full amount (50% of your PIA) since she filed for her own benefit early, the dollar amount of her reduction for filing early would still apply when she’s receiving spousal benefits as well.

      jb

  163. John says:

    Jim, John again.
    So next month I file & immediately suspend (I’m 66 in April). My wife files a restricted application next month as well (She’s 66 in June). She will receive 1/2 of my benefit. We are both still working. She works P/T & makes approx. $11k/yr. I understand the 2015 rule for max. earnings without getting penalized is $44,500. Is that figure just on what she earns or is it the total of what we both earn since she is taking half my benefit?
    Thanks, John

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hi John –

      Good news! When you are at or older than FRA, there is no earnings limit. Since your wife is filing the restricted application at FRA, you have no limits to her income.

      jb

      1. Jeff says:

        Hi Jim –

        What about taxes if you are still working and at full retirement age? I thought my tax adviser said we would have to pay taxes if my wife and I made over the threshold for a married couple. If I start social security at age 67, my wife takes a restricted application and takes half of my SS and pension, we can both work and make as much as we desire? Your answer would be most helpful.

        Thanks,
        Jeff

        1. jblankenship says:

          Taxes – yes. But above FRA you are not subject to the earnings test which can reduce your benefits received. Under FRA this applies.

          jb

    2. Linda says:

      Hi Jim,

      I am 60 years old and my husband is 3 years older.

      I just stumbled upon this discussion and am so glad I did! I will no longer be filing at 62 and nor my husband at 66 after reading your excellent advice.

      Our new plan now, after being enlightened by you, is for my husband to file and suspend at age 69, with me then immediately filing a restricted application to collect half of his FRA benefit (I’ll be 66 yrs old). We will both then collect our own SS benefits when we reach age 70.

      My question for you is: should he file and suspend at age 66, even though I will need to wait another three years til I can receive spousal benefits?

      I ask because your last response to Larry got me thinking. In case my husband would suffer from a similar unforeseen life-shortening event prior to age 70, as you described, he could then request retroactive benefits be paid to him in a lump sum, then cont to collect the age 66 benefits after that, with no effect on my receiving spousal benefits when I turn 66. If no health issues arose, he could simply continue to wait to age 70 as previously planned.

      Would that be a wise approach?

      Thank you so much for helping us get all our ducks in a row!!!

      Linda

      1. jblankenship says:

        Hi Linda –

        I think it makes good sense for your husband to file & suspend for the reasons that you listed. There is one downside if he should choose to take the retroactive lump sum benefit at some point: if his benefit is greater than your benefit, or would be greater if he delayed to age 70, your survivor benefit would be based on the age 66 benefit that he receives by choosing the retroactive option. If your own benefit would be similar or greater than his, this wouldn’t be much of a problem though. I only mention it because it could make a difference in the choices made at that point.

        jb

  164. Mike says:

    Thanks for the very helpful article. I do have one more question: I am at FRA and my wife is 10 months younger. Her own SS benefit is larger than the spouse benefit. Your examples clearly explained the case for her to file restricted application when she reaches FRA next year. What if I file and suspend and then she files restricted application now? The spouse benefit will be reduced by 10 x 0.5% = 5% per year. So for 5 years (when she will be 70 ) the total reduction is 5% x 5 = 25% of FRA yearly spouse benefit. Wouldn’t we be ahead if she files restricted application now based on this math?

    One thing I am not sure: I may be mistaken, but AARP site (http://www.aarp.org/work/social-security/info-2014/file-and-suspend-retirement-strategy.html ) seems to suggest that this may results in her own work record benefits be permanently reduced. I could not find corroborative information elsewhere. Could you comment?

    Thanks very much.

    Mike

    1. jblankenship says:

      The first problem with your suggestion is that she can’t file a restricted application until she is at least FRA. I’m not sure where the rest of your math is coming from, but suffice it to say that if she files for spousal benefits now, her own benefit and the spousal benefit will be reduced by approximately 5.55%, as deemed filing will apply to her.

      jb

  165. Scott says:

    Hi John-

    In example 2, what would be the advantage to John to filing and suspending vs. not doing anything and just claiming at his age 70?

    Thanks,

    1. jblankenship says:

      I’ll reply on behalf of John: if he files and suspends, he has a protected filing date on record. With this, if he has not filed for any other benefits he could change his mind sometime prior to age 70 and retroactively receive benefits from the date of his file & suspend, and then continue receiving benefits as if he had filed on that original protected date.

      jb

  166. John Umstead says:

    Hi Jim, John U Again,
    I called SS to meet & when I mentioned the restricted Application they siad it’s just called an application & not restricted. Is this correct or was the SS customer service associate wrong? Also, If my wife is getting 1/2 my benefit when she files the restricted application and when I unsuspend @ 70 will my benefit be only 1/2 since she is getting the other 1/2 and will I lose the 4 years of full benefits when I finally unsuspend or do I get full benefits and my wife keeps getting 1/2 my benefits until she changes that @ 70?

    1. jblankenship says:

      The fact that your wife is receiving a benefit based on half of your benefit will not impact your benefit at all.

      As far as what the SS reps want to call the restricted application, your guess is as good as mine. I’ve always had it referred to as a restricted application for spousal benefits. However, if your wife’s own benefit (not the spousal) is never going to be more than the spousal benefit, then it isn’t a restricted application in her case. Just depends on the numbers.

  167. Jack Liu says:

    Hi Jim. In your example 1,John did File & Suspend and Joyce did Restricted Application to receive spouse benefit. What if Joyce’s own benefit at age 70 is still less than the spousal benefit based on John’s record? In that case can she continue to receive the spousal benefit pass age 70? Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      In that case she would continue to receive the same benefit as she had since she filed the restricted application. If she knew in advance that her own benefit would not outpace the spousal, she would just file for her own and the spousal benefit, no restricted application needed.

  168. John Umstead says:

    I will be 66 in April of this year. My spouse will be 66 in June of this year as well. If I understand the F&S and the RA. I would like to file & suspend until age 70 and have my spouse (or me) file a restricted application. This way she would receive 1/2 of my SS starting in April & she could also wait until 70 to collect her full amount. My question is does she have to be 66 when I do this & I should wait or her 2 months difference wouldn’t matter.

    Thanks, John

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hi John – the timing of your file & suspend doesn’t matter. Her filing of the restricted application will have to wait until she reaches Full Retirement Age of course.

      jb

  169. tom says:

    Jim, My spouse,(age 61) has been on ss disability for two years. I’m 65 and plan on waiting until 70 to sign up for my soc.sec. Would filing a Restricted Application at 66 be available to me ? Thanks in advance.
    Tom

    1. jblankenship says:

      I think so, Tom – but you’ll have to check with SSA to see for sure if this is available to you.

  170. Jeff Bloom says:

    Jim, when you stated ” if his or her own…. “, shouldn’t it read ” of his or her own…. “?

    This is important because if the individual who is filing has a retirement benefit if his or her own that either is larger or could eventually be larger than the Spousal Benefit, filing the Restricted Application allows his or her own retirement benefit to be delayed and future benefits will grow by the same 8% per year as mentioned above.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that’s correct. Thanks for helping out with the typo. I’ve fixed it now.

      Jb

  171. […] Age. You probably already knew this because you fully understand all of the rules about filing a Restricted Application. You can’t file a Restricted Application if you’re under FRA, […]

  172. Anne says:

    I guess the goal is to “maximize one’s due retirement benefits”. Thanks.

  173. John Lacek says:

    Jim,
    Thanks for the continuing explanations of “File & Suspend” and Restricted Application.” After reading your articles, I always think that I now understand, until I read the next post. You’re right, this topic can be confusing.

    I do have one question for you in regard to your Example 1: If John waits until he is 68 to “File & Suspend” (that will be when Joyce reaches her FRA) when Joyce files for Spousal benefits at her FRA will that benefit be calculated on the increased benefit of John (John’s benefit will be 16% higher) or is the Spousal Benefit always calculated on the benefit value at FRA?

    Thanks for all you do to help us understand our SS options.
    John

    1. jblankenship says:

      John, the Spousal Benefit is always based on the Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is the benefit that the other spouse would have received at Full Retirement Age.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

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