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restricted application

File & Suspend and Restricted Application are NOT Equal

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.  

Can Both Spouses File a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits Only?

In the wake of my post last week, Can Both Spouses File and Suspend?, I received multiple iterations of the same question, which is the topic of today’s post: Can Both Spouses File a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits Only? Unlike the original situation where technically it is possible to undertake but the results would not be optimal, in this situation it’s not technically possible. (The one exception is in the case of a divorced couple. For the details on how it works for divorcees, see this article: A Social Security Option Strictly for Divorced Folks.) The way the restricted application for spousal benefits works is that there are three rules that must be met: You must be at or older than Full Retirement Age (FRA) Your spouse must have filed for his or her own retirement benefit – does not have to be actively receiving benefits, he or she […]

Can Both Spouses File and Suspend?

This question continues to come up in my interactions with readers, so I thought I’d run through some more examples to illustrate the options and issues.  The question is: Can both spouses file and suspend upon reaching Full Retirement Age, and collect the Spousal Benefit on the other spouse’s record, allowing our own benefit(s) to increase to age 70? Regarding file & suspend and taking spousal benefits, although technically both of you could file and suspend at the same time, only one of you *might* receive spousal benefits at that point. The reason is that once you file (regardless of whether you suspend) the spousal benefit is then limited to the amount over and above your own Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), up to 50% of your spouse’s PIA. (Remember, PIA is the amount of benefit that you would receive at exactly Full Retirement Age.) For example, if you and your […]

Important Ages for Social Security

There are many specific important ages to know as you’re planning your Social Security filing strategy. The ages can become quite confusing and jumbled together as you plan.  It’s important to know at what age you can take specific actions, as well as what the consequences can be if you take a particular action earlier than it is appropriate. These ages are pervasive throughout this blog and my book, but I hadn’t compiled all of the important ages into a single place, so listed below are what I have determined to be the most important ages with regard to Social Security, as well as what is important about that age.  Enjoy! Age Description 22-62 This is the forty years during which your monthly earnings are compiled to develop your initial Average Indexed Monthly Earnings (AIME).  This figure is then used to determine your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) which is used […]

Restricted Application is Available via the Online Application

I learn something new almost every day. Today (well, not today but recently), I learned something about the online application for Social Security that I didn’t know: the restricted application for Spousal Benefits is available as a choice when you apply using the online application system! (If you want more information on why a restricted application is important, see this article about Leaving Money on the Table.) For quite a while now I’ve been telling folks that the best way to apply for the restricted application is to go to your local office.  When you get there and explain that you want to submit a restricted application for Spousal Benefits only, the first person that you talk to will likely tell you that you can’t do this, because your own retirement benefit is greater than half of your spouse’s PIA, or something like that.  Then my advice has been to […]

Know Your Options When Talking to Social Security

When you get ready to file for your retirement benefits, it’s important to understand what options are available to you before you talk to the Social Security Administration.  There are many ways to get a good understanding of your options, including working with your financial advisor, reading up on the subject (this blog is a good place to start!), and talking to friends and relatives who have already gone through the process. The reason it’s important to know your options is because the Social Security Administration staff that you may encounter are not trained to help you maximize your lifetime benefits – they are trained to help you maximize the benefit that you have available to you today.  Often the options that the SSA staff present to you are not the best options for you in the long run.  In addition, SSA staff are absolutely overwhelmed by the volume of […]

Are You Leaving Social Security Money on the Table? You Might Be, If You Don’t Understand and Use This One Rule

Many couples that have done some planning with regard to filing for Social Security retirement benefits have figured out how to coordinate between the higher wage earner’s benefit and the lower wage earner’s benefit.  Often it makes the most sense to file for the lower wage earner’s benefit early, at or sometime near age 62, while delaying the higher wage earner’s benefit out to as late as age 70. This method allows for a maximization of those two benefits.  If you’re really astute, you probably picked up on the concept of file and suspend, as well.  File and Suspend allows for the lower wage earner to increase his or her benefits by adding the Spousal Benefit, while the higher wage earner continues to delay his or her benefit, adding the delay credits. Another little-known method that can be employed in specific circumstances is called the Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits.  […]

The Restricted Application for Social Security Spousal Benefits

One provision of Social Security benefits that is relatively unknown is the restricted application for Spousal Benefits.  This provision allows a person to apply for benefits based upon his or her spouse’s record while delaying receipt of benefits based upon his or her own record. The restricted application is only available when three factors have been met: 1 – the individual filing the restricted application has reached Full Retirement Age (FRA); and 2 – the individual has not filed for his or her own Retirement Benefit; and 3 – the individual’s spouse has filed for his or her own Retirement Benefit (could have filed and suspended) An Example Dick and Jane are ages 62 and 66, respectively.  Dick filed for his own benefit at age 62, and Jane would like to delay her benefit to age 70, to achieve the maximum delay credits.  Since Jane is at FRA (factor 1), […]