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The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application

deemed filing benchThe Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015’s Aftermath

Note: the original text had a placeholder date of May 3, 2016 as the final date for File & Suspend. This date has been finalized as April 30, 2016 and the text below corrected. — jb

With the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, an era of flexibility in Social Security claiming strategies comes to an end. Long gone is the ability for one spouse to delay benefits while the other collects benefits based on the first spouse’s record. Also gone is the option of collecting spousal benefits while delaying your own benefits to accrue the delay credits. We’ll go over the actual changes below, based upon your date of birth – because some of the provisions will remain for a while, and could be useful if you’re the right age.

Born in 1953 or earlier

If you were born in 1953 or earlier, that is, if you reach or reached your 62nd birthday in 2015 or before, some of the provisions are allowed for you as a “grandfathering” phase-in, albeit with some changes.

Suspending benefits – This option is still available to you, although there are some limits. If you’re already suspending your benefits or if you suspend your benefits before April 30, 2016, your suspension of benefits will continue to allow your spouse to collect Spousal Benefits while your own benefit accrues the delay credits. A child of yours under age 18 (or 19 if a full-time student in elementary or secondary school, or any age if disabled) can also collect benefits based on your record while your benefit is suspended.

In addition, if you’ve already suspended or will suspend by April 30, 2016, you will continue to have the option of changing your mind and receiving retroactive benefits to any point at or after your suspension date.

You will still have the option to suspend benefits at any point after April 30, 2016, but the treatment of your suspended benefits will be different. The new way suspended benefits works is that not only your own benefit is suspended, but also all benefits paid on your record are suspended as well. This means that if you suspend your benefits, your spouse and children will not be allowed to receive a benefit based on your record while your benefit is suspended.

Of course, since you must be at least at FRA to suspend benefits, this means that effectively this option is only available for persons who will reach age 66 on or before April 30, 2016 – so your birthdate must be April 30, 1950 or earlier to utilize File & Suspend in the old fashion. If born after April 30, 1950, the new suspend rules will apply to you (see below for more information).

Restricted Application – If your spouse has filed for benefits and you were born in 1953 or earlier, you may have the option of filing a restricted application for Spousal Benefits based on your spouse’s record, allowing you to delay receipt of your own retirement benefit to a later date. This is allowed based upon the fact that your spouse has filed – if your spouse has suspended receipt of benefits, the new suspend rules will apply unless the suspend was complete before April 30, 2016 as described above.

If your spouse was born in 1953 or earlier as well, he or she can still file a restricted application for Spousal Benefits upon reaching Full Retirement Age, allowing your spouse to collect the Spousal Benefit while delaying his or her own benefit to a later age as well. If your spouse was born in 1954 or later however, the new rules for deemed filing will apply, effectively eliminating the restricted application option (see below for more details).

Born in 1954 or later

This is where the biggest changes come in. File & Suspend is effectively eliminated for most strategies, and the expansion of the deeming rule eliminates the restricted application altogether for folks in this age group.

Suspend – You are still allowed to suspend benefits when you reach Full Retirement Age, but the suspension of benefits now applies not only to your own benefits but also to any benefits payable to your spouse or children.

You may start your benefits at any time at or after age 62 and suspend receipt of benefits at or after FRA. Your spouse and/or children may receive the auxiliary benefits during the period of time that you are actively receiving benefits, but if you suspend your benefits your dependents will also cease to receiving benefits until you restart your own benefits.

There are cases when this might make sense, such as if you have young children who could receive benefits for a period of time and then later you want to suspend to accrue additional delay credits (perhaps after the children have reached age 18).

Deemed Filing – in the past, deemed filing only applied if you were under Full Retirement Age. Not so under the new rules. If you were born in 1954 or later, when you file for any benefit you are deemed to file for all benefits for which you are eligible. This means that you cannot file a restricted application for spousal benefits in order to delay filing for your own benefit (an option under the old rules). Now, if you file for your own benefit or a Spousal Benefit, you have effectively filed for all benefits (if you’re eligible for additional benefits).

Effectively due to deemed filing, you will not be allowed to separate your benefits at any age if you’re eligible for more than one type of benefit.

So what is left?

After all the changes, are there any options left for filing strategies? Of course, but they’re definitely limited.

If you were born in 1953 or before, you have all of the same options available to you that you had before. However, you must act quickly if you were planning to implement a File & Suspend strategy, and this is only going to be available to you if you will have (or had) your 66th birthday on or before April 30, 2016 (you were born on or before April 30, 1950). If you fit this category, you can still File & Suspend and your dependents can receive benefits based on your record while your own benefit accrues the delay credits.

If you were born after April 30, 1950, you have the option (as outlined above) to suspend benefits at Full Retirement Age to accrue delay credits, but any dependent benefits (spousal or children’s) will also be suspended at that point until you re-file (unsuspend) your benefits.

A version of separating your own benefits from Spousal Benefits is available under the new rules, illustrated by the below example:

Jeffrey, age 60 is married to Pamela, age 59. Jeffrey’s projected Primary Insurance Amount (the amount he’ll receive when he reaches Full Retirement Age, which is 66 years, 4 months) is $2,200. Pamela’s PIA is projected as $1,000.

Pamela can file for her own benefit at age 62, which will result in her benefit being reduced to 72.5% of her PIA since her Full Retirement age is 66 years, 6 months. Her resulting benefit will be $725 per month. Since Jeffrey is at this point only 63 years of age and has not filed for his own benefit, Pamela is not eligible for a Spousal Benefit, so deemed filing does not apply to her.

Therefore, Pamela must (may?) wait until Jeffrey files for his retirement benefit before she files for the Spousal Benefit. If Jeffrey files for his own benefit at his Full Retirement Age (66 years, 4 months) or any time on or before Pamela reaches her FRA (66 years, 6 months), Pamela can then file for the unreduced Spousal “excess” Benefit to be added to her own reduced benefit.

The way the excess Spousal Benefit is calculated is to subtract Pamela’s PIA ($1,000) from 50% of Jeffrey’s PIA ($1,100), for a resulting excess Spousal Benefit of $100. If Pamela is at least at FRA this amount will be added to her reduced benefit for a total monthly benefit of $825.

If Pamela becomes eligible for the Spousal Benefit at any time before her FRA, the $100 excess benefit will be reduced, and then added to her benefit. So if, for example, Jeffrey files for his own benefit at his FRA (when Pamela is 65 years and 6 months old), her excess benefit will be 83.33% of the maximum, meaning:

Jeffrey’s PIA ($2,200) times 50% ($1,100) minus Pamela’s PIA ($1,000, resulting in $100) times 83.33% equals $83.33

Therefore, in this example we would take the reduced Spousal Benefit amount of $83.30 (rounded down) and add Pamela’s own reduced benefit of $725 for a total of $808.30.

There are other strategies available to be sure, and we’ll cover those in future articles. For now, just know that the landscape for benefit filing strategies is drastically limited from what we had available previously.

[graphiq id=”lmKpKnihBsh” title=”Social Security Beneficiaries” width=”600″ height=”514″ url=”https://w.graphiq.com/w/lmKpKnihBsh” link=”http://time-series.findthedata.com/l/56644/Social-Security-Beneficiaries” link_text=”Social Security Beneficiaries | FindTheData”]

201 Comments

  1. Lois Wauson says:

    Dear Jim,
    I am trying to figure out my best strategy for retirement. I was born in October 1953, and my husband, born in July 1944. He started taking SS at age 62 while our only son was still in high school. Now that our son is over 19, my husband’s SS benefit is $1650. I plan to retire at age 66, October 2019. Today, I called SS to find out about File and Suspend and what Deemed Filing means to me. I was left fairly confused, because the agent seemed to indicate I could still file and suspend, because I am in the grandfathered period of being born in 1953.
    Can I file and suspend and take a Spousal Benefit ($825) at age 66? Then, at age 70, can I then refile and take my delayed benefit?
    Thank you, Lois

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, you could not file and suspend, but you could file a restricted application which is what you’ve described. You can file a restricted application for spousal benefits only – when you are at full retirement age (66). Then at some point in the future (age 70) you could file for your own benefits.

      1. Lois Wauson says:

        Thank you for your quick response! I will read up on your very informative blog on restricted application. Sincerely, Lois

  2. I turned 66 in 2014, my wife turned 66 on 12/15. I filed and suspended 0n 12/2016,my wife is now collecting spousal benefits of $ 1045. monthly. Can i file a restricted application and collect spousal benefits based on her benefits. we both plan to wait until 70 to file for our own benefits. Is this a possible situation?

    1. jblankenship says:

      No – spousal benefits are only allowed for one spouse at a time.

    2. Bruce says:

      Jim, In another reply (which I can’t find right now), you said one can file for restricted application online and to select filing only for spouse on the question about delaying my benefits and filing only for spouse. However, there is now a question immediately before that one that asks when I want to start receiving MY benefits and you have to select from a drop down of months from 4/2016 to 2/2017. No option to say anything else. And, Social Security on the phone twice today told me that I can no long do this, that it is the same as file and suspend. I argued with both and was told that was how is was as of April. I tried to explain that file and suspend and a restricted application are different and they were adamant they were not. So, I can’t do it online and wonder if I go to the SS office whether I will make any progress there. What the heck do I do?
      Bruce

      1. jblankenship says:

        At least by going to the office you will have face-to-face with someone to work through this. You are absolutely correct – the restricted application is still available as long as you were born before 1954.

  3. Bob Kraus says:

    Hi, My wife DOB (2/20/47) took SS benefits at 62 and she is now 69. My DOB (12/2/50) and I turn 66 this December which I understand is my FRA. Just checking that I could file for a restricted application which I was told to file in advance for this December and then have full benefits when I turn 70.
    Just checking, is this correct? Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that strategy should be available for you.

  4. Ron Rivelli says:

    I am a retired federal employee but also receiving reduced social security. My wife is semi-retired and is working part time at age 65. She will be 66 next September. Is she entitled to receive benefits based on my social security amount albeit reduced to $320 or must she make a claim on her account. If she must make a claim based on her own earnings, it would probably be better for her to wait until she reaches FRA.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Prior to her FRA your wife cannot file solely for spousal benefits. Upon reaching FRA since she was born before 1954 she is allowed to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, and then later file for benefits based on her own record.

  5. james d. says:

    My wife (dob 07/53) filed for reduced benefits ($381/mo) on her work record at age 62. I (dob 11/50) planned to file and suspend this year and let her begin receiving reduced spousal benefits. My PIA @ FRA= $2631, age 70= $3527. I was planning to file at age 70. Since this will not work now, can you suggest our best options forward?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you’re intending to continue delaying your benefits to age 70, you could file a restricted application for spousal benefits based upon your wife’s record when you reach age 66. That’s really the only option you have now if you want to delay your own benefit to age 70.

  6. Kathleen B. says:

    My husband retired at 62. He passed away this Feb. 2016. I am 60 years old and am still working full time. Am I eligible for any of his retirement benefits. Thank you, Kathleen B.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Kathleen, you could be eligible for benefits based on your late husband’s record at your age 60 – but if you’re still working this might limit the amount of benefits that you have available to you. You might make an appointment with a local SSA office to discuss your options.

  7. Mary Ellen B says:

    my husband is 65 and plans on taking his social security at age 66. I became 62 in November 2015. Can I apply for spousal benefits at my FRA at 66 and suspend my benefits to age 70 under this new provision?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you have not filed for any Social Security benefits previously, when you reach age 66 you will be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, delaying your own benefit to as late as age 70. There is no “suspend” involved in this strategy.

  8. John Kohler says:

    Just talked to local SS office. Never heard of the term “restricted application”. Here is a scenario I think is possible. Please confirm as they couldn’t.
    I turn 66 in July 2016 and my wife Sept 2016. We want to have my wife file in Sept at her FRA (about 1000/mo), and I want to file a restricted application at that time-(500/mo). At 70, I plan to file to receive my “uplifted” amount. My wife at 70 then files for 50% of my FRA amount, which is higher than her FRA amount.
    Possible?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, this should be possible.

  9. Tom says:

    Hello Jim,
    I was born November 1953 and my wife was born February 1954, so we are either side of the January 1, 1954 cutoff. I also will be receiving a Federal pension. I understand the file and suspend is not an option, how would the restricted application work for us?
    Thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      You are the only one that is eligible a restricted application. You could do this at any time after you reach Full Retirement Age – provided that your wife has also filed for her own benefit. If she waits to file for her own benefit until she’s at FRA, you’d have to wait until that time to file a restricted application. Filing for your own benefit prior to that point would eliminate your eligibility to file a restricted application.

      In addition, if you are also receiving a pension that triggers Government Pension Offset treatment, any spousal benefit that you would be eligible to receive via the restricted application will be reduced by an amount equal to 2/3 of the amount of the pension you’re receiving.

  10. Susan Halpern says:

    My husband who is at FRA (66), will File and Suspend his benefits on April 1. Is there a waiting period to be approved? If I turn 66 on September 30, 2016, do I file the Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits on that date? Will the benefits then begin in October? And the payments will actually begin in November?

    1. jblankenship says:

      There will be a processing period, so your husband may not get the letter from SSA until some time later (I don’t know how backed up they’ll be).

      You can file your restricted application up to 3 months prior to your reaching age 66. The effective date will be September, with benefits beginning in October – at least that’s my understanding. But you should check with SSA to be sure about the timing.

      1. Susan Halpern says:

        Thank you.

  11. Brandon Downs says:

    Wife files for her own benefit at age 65 (Jan, 2017; $605/month) and husband files restricted application for spousal benefit on wife’s record at his age 66 (April, 2017; $317/month). Husband is higher earner (significantly higher) and lets his benefit grow to age 70. At husband age 70, he files for his benefit ($3,563/month estimated) and wife switches from her own record to spousal benefit (half of husband age 66 benefit is $1,326/month).

    Question: if husband and wife proceed with the strategy above, does the wife receive a reduced spousal benefit because she filed on her own record early when they go off his record at his age 70 ? I think that the answer is NO (ie the wife would still receive the full spousal benefit), but have not seen anything to confirm this.

    Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately you’re wrong about this, but it’s not as bad as you might think. If the wife files at exactly age 65, she’s experiencing a reduction of 6.67% from her FRA-age benefit amount. That means that the estimate you gave of $605 represents a reduction of approximately $43 from her PIA of $648. This dollar-amount reduction is what will follow when she files for spousal benefits later (when her husband files for his own benefit at his age 70).

      So instead of $1,326, she’ll get $1,283. And of course, this amount will have increased by that time due to annual COLAs (if any are given).

      1. B Downs says:

        Interesting and thanks. Went to SS office and they provided a benefit matrix. One, they show that husband (filing restricted app at his FRA age 66) would receive $302.40 which is half of wife age 65 (ie reduced) benefit. My understanding is that he would receive $324 (50% of wife FRA benefit) as attained FRA when filing the restricted app.

        Two, they then said/show that when husband turns 70 (husband takes own record, wife switches to spousal benefit) that her spousal benefit would be reduced from $1316.40 which is the full spousal benefit to $1,206.70. This seems at odds with the dollar-amount reduction you referenced earlier.

        My gut tells me SS office is incorrect, although, they are the source. Any thoughts are appreciated.

        1. jblankenship says:

          It sure sounds as if there are some errors in the information you received.

  12. Larry Rosten says:

    I am 67. My wife is 64. After reading your outstanding articles I would appreciate a confirmation of my understanding of how we can best maximize our Ss benefits. I will file & suspend now. When my wife turns 66 she will file a restricted application & collect half of my benefits. When I turn 70 I collect my benefits. When my wife turns 70 she then collects her benefits. Please confirm that because I have filed & suspended before 4/29/16 my wife will be able to file a restricted application at the time she turns 66. Thanks so much for your easy to understand information. You are providing a very valuable service

    1. jblankenship says:

      As long as nothing changes about the rules between now and when your wife reaches FRA, your strategy should work just fine.

  13. Gersh Gnezdok says:

    Dear Jim –
    Your blog is a brilliant source for people searching for help in the informational ocean. Thank you so much for your answers. I also have a few and would appreciate your support.
    At my 66+ I’m still working and haven’t file for SS benefits planning to do that later. My wife born in 1957 and working. As I’m reading here for our case there is no advantage in Filing & Suspend prior to 4.30.2016 if benefits delayed. Did I miss something?
    On the other hand I may lose my job soon due to company laid-offs and would need to file for SS benefits and unemployment (think PA lows allow that). I’m not sure how these benefits are related. Would that be useful to file for SS benefits now in anticipation of a laid-off?
    Thanks,
    Gersh

    1. jblankenship says:

      I don’t know if there are special unemployment comp rules in PA – but in general there is no reason you couldn’t receive SS benefits at the same time as U/E.

      jb

  14. Rob Perelli-Minetti says:

    Jim,
    We very much appreciate your work in this area!

    I am 67 and my wife is 65 (reaching FRA in June 2016).

    In order to take advantage of File & Suspend / Spousal benefits before it goes away, I have just filed online and (as you counsel) specified I want to suspend immediately in the remarks section. (Your article on the difference between file and suspend and restricted application was a lifesaver – almost did the wrong thing….).

    My wife has not yet retired, but will at year end.

    Should she file a restricted application as soon as she reaches FRA in June, or should she wait until she actually retires (or somewhere in between)?

    Is it correct that the spousal benefit she will receive (until she’s 70) will increase incrementally monthly, or is it fixed at the date I filed?

    Thanks in advance!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife should file effective as of her month reaching age 66 – to do otherwise is simply throwing money away.

      Her benefit will be fixed at a rate of 50% of the amount you would have received had you filed at age 66 – with annual Cost of Living Adjustments (COLAs) when applicable.

      jb

  15. s. johnson says:

    Thanks so much for your advice; it’s very helpful and gets us on the right road…

  16. David Seccombe says:

    Jim, Every case is so variable, it’s hard to learn from other examples as to what is best for my wife and me. Her DOB is 2-7-1953, mine is 5-21-1953. She would like to draw something (whether her’s or spousal) at age 66 (2-7-2019), and I will probably wait until age 70 (5-21-2019) to draw. What angle between these two rules would benefit us the most?
    Her estim. tax earnings per year -$35,642, while mine are $117,000.
    Her FRA payment is $1,175, mine is $2,707, and my pymt. at age 70 is $3,599.

    Thanks for the review. Hope I’ve given what you need.

    1. jblankenship says:

      You really only have one choice, if your wife would like to get a benefit at age 66 and you’re planning to delay your benefits to age 70. Your wife can file for her own benefit at her age 66, and then when you reach 66 you can file a restricted application for spousal benefits, delaying your own benefit until age 70 to earn the delay credits. That’s really it, given your description of your plans.

      jb

  17. Mike S says:

    Hi, I’m 60 and on SSDI for several years. My wife is 62 (born in ’53). Am I considered to have ‘filed’ for social security so that she can file a restricted application for spousal benefits either now (reduced) or does she have to wait until her FRA in 2020 when she turns 66?

    (sorry – I somehow put this in the wrong place as a reply vs a new entry)

  18. cjhulley says:

    Ok. I thought I had this all figured out but after reading these examples above, I am confused.
    Situation: JH b/d 2-11-50; CH b/d 3-29-57
    JH has been on disability for about 8 years. His disability become regular social security retirement when he turns 66.

    JH plans on suspending his social security retirement and delay receiving until he reaches age 70 (2-11-20).
    Question: Can CH file a restricted application when she turns 66 1/2 (FRA) in 2023 and receive 1/2 of JH PIA and wait until she is 70 to accumulate the delay credits?

    1. jblankenship says:

      No, anyone born in 1954 or later is not eligible for a restricted application.

  19. s. johnson says:

    This is a lot of information to take in. So I’m hoping you can give us some tentative advice. My husband (1/52) and I (8/52) have not applied for SS. His FRA amount is 1,762; at 70 it’s 2,328, and currently would be 1,446. My FRA is 701 and at 70, it’s 925, currently would be 552. We’re self-employed and don’t have lots of extra money. I know we’ve already missed extra advantages by the new SS changes.
    I’m very confused about how to best achieve the benefits for which we’re currently entitled. Do you have any recommendations that could help us? I thank you in advance.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you want to maximize benefits, delaying the larger of the two as long as possible is the key. Otherwise, taking advantage of spousal benefits when possible is another way to increase benefits.

      Given your circumstances, here’s something you might consider:

      1) Your husband delays his benefit until his age 70, to maximize the benefit that he will receive. This will also maximize the amount of survivor benefit that you will receive if he dies before you do.
      2) You can file for your benefits at any point – I’d suggest either filing right away, or waiting to file when your husband reaches his FRA (66). Either way, the dollar amount of reduction will be relatively small. The key here is to file by the time your husband reaches his FRA so that he can file a restricted application for spousal benefits. This will provide you as a couple with approximately $1,000 to $1,050 combined.
      3) When your husband reaches age 70 and files for his benefit, as a couple you’ll have approximately $2,900 in SS benefit combined.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  20. Aubrey Howard says:

    Jim,

    Thanks so much for your excellent and informative article. I will be 68 in April 2016, and my wife will be 64 in August 2016. Our plan was for me to wait until April 2018 to file for Social Security when I am age 70 and for my wife to file a restricted application for spousal benefits when she reaches 66 in August 2018 and then file for her own retirement benefits she reaches age 70 in August 2022. It sounds like I do not have to file and suspend prior to April 2016 in order to make this work. Is that correct?

    Also, what form is used to file a restricted application for spousal benefits if she goes to the Social Security Office to file? Does anything have to be stated in the remarks section of the form to ensure she gets only spousal benefits and not her own retirement benefits when she files a restricted application in August 2018?

    Thanks again an may God bless you.

    Aubrey

    1. jblankenship says:

      You’re right, Aubrey, you don’t need to file and suspend for this to work.

      A restricted application is done using the same form as any other SSA retirement benefit. There is a checkbox in the online version that asks if you would like to file only for spousal benefits at this time, delaying your own retirement benefits until sometime later. The paper form doesn’t have this checkbox, you would need to write in the comments section that you are restricting this application’s scope to the available spousal benefits only.

      jb

      1. walt c says:

        Hello Jim, Thank you so much for your comments! Everyone should hire you for financial planning. Our situation is almost the same in that spouse and I are 3 years and 10.7 months apart in age. Have looked at many sites, but yours is the most clear.

        I was 66 on 12/1/15. My wife was 62 on 10/15/15. We both want to delay taking benefits until we each turn 70. I plan to simply go with her when she is 66 and I am 69.8 years old. I plan to file for my almost 132% and she will file a Restricted Application at that time. Then no need to File and Suspend this month? F and S would retroactively stop our HSA since it requires taking Medicare Part A. This would result in additional income taxes.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, that’s correct – in your case there is no benefit to file & suspend. If it was me, I’d hold out until you are 70 and get the full 132% – you’d leave 2 months’ worth of spousal benefits behind with this, but you’re maximizing the larger of your two benefits (assuming yours is the largest).

  21. Gerry Rexing says:

    I sent you a question about a week ago, and got your response. I have one other option that I’d like to know if it is viable or not. Our details are:
    Gerry, 10/30/1950, FRA 66 (2016), FR$$ 2600, Age 70 benefit $3500
    Gloria, 4/9/1950, FRA 66 (2016), FR$$ $1050, Age 70 benefit $1420
    Gerry won’t file until age 70. Can Gloria file at age 66 for her own benefit ($1050), then when Gerry files in 2020, refile for Spousal benefits which at that point should be 3500/2 ?s
    Thanks for your help.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Spousal benefits are not based upon the benefit amount (which changes by age), they are based upon the Primary Insurance Amount, which is equal to the amount that you would receive at your Full Retirement Age. So Gloria could be eligible for a spousal benefit based upon Gerry’s $2,600 amount, regardless of when she files for it (as long as she’s at least age 66). The key here is that Gloria’s spousal benefit would not be half of $3,500.

      jb

      1. Leo says:

        Thank you. That (benefit is half of FRA amount) was never clear.

  22. Sandy C. says:

    Jim,

    My husband is 55 and is receiving SS disability. I will be 66 in 2017. Our desire was to have me file a restricted application, hoping to take 50% of his benefits and let mine increase until I am 70. Is this still a viable plan for us? If so, when must I restrict my SS to do this? Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If this is available to you (which I believe it is) you would have to wait until your 66th birthday when you are at Full Retirement Age to file a restricted application. I would talk to SSA a few months prior to age 66 to ensure that it’s available to you.

      jb

      1. Mike S says:

        Hi, I’m 60 and on SSDI for several years. My wife is 62 (born in ’53). Am I considered to have ‘filed’ for social security so that she can file a restricted application for spousal benefits either now (reduced) or does she have to wait until her FRA in 2020 when she turns 66?

        1. jblankenship says:

          In answer to your first question – yes, you are considered to have filed for Social Security.

          For the second question: your wife must wait until FRA to file a restricted application.

          jb

  23. Jeff says:

    Hello Jim,

    Thanks as always for the pertinent information and how to go about completing tasks.
    Just an update. I went to the local social security office yesterday to file and suspend. My birth date is in March 2016. At first, the rep looked at me “funny” and had to contact her supervisor to make sure I could do what I was asking to be done. Once that was completed and questions answered, I said my wife will be filing a restricted application in March 2017 when she is FRA. Again, the “funny” look and she said “I don’t believe she can do that.” We went back and forth a couple of moments and I said there are financial and tax people who say she can file. The answer was “The don’t work for SSA.” I let it be at that time figuring my wife can apply when she is FRA and hopefully online for the restricted benefit.

    I checked the paperwork when I got home and there was the one sentence showing “I want benefits beginning with March 2016.” I called back and got hold of the same rep who said that was the wording which is used and I would get a letter in the mail indicating I am requesting to file and suspend.

    Any comments, Jim.

    Regards,
    Jeff

    1. jblankenship says:

      No comments – that sounds like a typical conversation with SSA. When (if) you have the same conversation where the SSA folks say your wife can’t file a restricted application, ask them why. They need to show specifically why this is the case, rather than “I don’t believe she can do that”.

      jb

  24. Arlene E. says:

    If I start collecting spousal benefits when I am 66 and my husband is 70, are my benefits still based on his age 66 benefits, even though he is getting his age 70 benefits? Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your spousal benefit will be based on the amount that your husband would receive at his Full Retirement Age (66), plus Cost of Living Adjustments. If he started his benefit at age 66 and he is now age 70, your benefit will be 50% of the amount that he is receiving now. If he started his benefit at any time after age 66, your benefit will be something less than 50% of what he is currently receiving.

      jb

  25. Jay White says:

    Hi Jim,
    I was born 5-6-51 and my wife 3-23-53. I think we can no longer File & Suspend. We both plan on waiting until we are each 70 to begin collecting on our own records. How can my wife draw Spousal Benefits while waiting until she is 70? Is that still possible? When I turn FRA, do I file a restricted application to allow my benefits to continue to grow until 70 and does my wife do the same?
    Thank you so much for your help.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you are both waiting until age 70 to file for your benefits, a restricted application is not possible for you. When you have reached age 70 and you file for your benefits, your wife will be just less than 2 years younger. So if she has not filed for her benefits by that time she could file a restricted application at that time in order to receive spousal benefits for the remaining 22 months before she reaches age 70.

      jb

  26. Robert Smith says:

    hello, i was born 8-1-50 reaching FRA 8-1-2016. My spouse was born 4-26-51. She has been receiving SS disability for about 8 years, currently in the amount of $ 808. My original plan was to file restricted on 8-2016 on her amount so as to receive $ 404, Then i would retire at 67 or 68, collecting the hire amount. She would then in 4-17 apply for spousal on my PIA of about $ 2360 increasing her check to $ 1180. Is still possible ??

    1. jblankenship says:

      I don’t think you’ll have the option for the restricted application in August of 2016, but you should check with SSA about this. Otherwise your plan should work as you have described.

      jb

  27. wendy says:

    Thanks for all the info. I (5/51) had planned on filing a restricted app on my ex’s ss (2/51) upon FRA. I meet all the criteria ie. 10+ and never re-married. It appears I can still do this? My question is that 1/2 of his ss is less than my full benefit at FRA (shouldn’t be but that’s a whole other story). Am I still able to collect and what would be drawn from?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, you should be able to do this since you were born before 1954. The fact that half of his SS is less than your full benefit is why you need to do the restricted application, restricting benefits received to only the spousal benefit. This allows you to delay receipt of your own benefit until the delay credits are added (by delaying past your FRA).

      jb

  28. Arlene E. says:

    Thanks so much for the information. I have one final question: If I start my spousal benefit on my husband’s record when HE is 69 and he is waiting until 70 to collect, is the amount I would get based on his benefit at age 69, or his benefit at 67 when he filed and suspended? Have a happy new year! We appreciate your wonderful web site.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Hi Arlene – it’s actually option 3 – your spousal benefit will be based on the amount your husband would have received at his Full Retirement Age of 66.

      jb

  29. Dan Lattimore says:

    Jim,

    I reach FRA Feb 14 of 16. Plan is for me to file and suspend and begin collection at 67. The wife will reach 62 in July of 16, so it appears like the new law got us and we missed some of the options? If she wants to begin to collect reduced spousal benefits at 62 this July ( approx 37% of my approx $2,700 per month or about $999 per month) she just files for those spousal benefits prior to her birthday correct? After she reaches FRA, she is eligible for about $1,300 based on her years of work . Is she “Deemed” to always be bound to the reduced amount? or can she then file for her actual benefits at 66? What is the best strategy for us? Neither of us wants to wait to 70 as many people. Thanks for your help..

    1. jblankenship says:

      Deemed filing will apply to your wife, and so if she files for benefits at her age 62 the maximum benefit she’ll receive will be the amount she gets at that point. There will be no additional benefits available to her later at age 66. However, if you did not file and suspend she could receive her own reduced benefit (approximately $975 at age 62) – and she would not be deemed to have filed for spousal benefits at that time. Then at some point later after you have filed for your benefits she could add the “excess” spousal benefit. If she waits until FRA to file for spousal benefits, this would add approximately $50 to her total benefit.

      jb

  30. Larry Tittle says:

    I am 63 (8/4/52) and my wife is 63 (3/31/53). My SS payment at FRA is projected to be $2,300. My wife’s is approximately the same amount. No children or other dependents. We both plan to wait until age 70 to begin taking our SS payments.

    We had expected to use the File & Suspend strategy at age 66 before the recent changes in the law.

    It appears that there may still be an option for us related to suspending benefits before April 16th, 2016 but I’m confused about what exactly that scenario is.

    We are most interested in maximizing preserving the maximum payouts at age 70 and beyond. However, we would also like to take advantage of opportunities to add value on the way to that age.

    Is there a strategy remaining for us to maximize value from SS other than just holding off filing until age 70.

    Thanks for any thoughts on our situation,

    Larry & Mary

    1. jblankenship says:

      Unfortunately, in order to utilize the “old rule” file & suspend you have to be at Full Retirement Age or older. Since you will not reach that age by April 30, 2016, file & suspend is not an option that would help you.

      The only thing you could do would be for one of you to file for benefits at Full Retirement Age, and the other could file a restricted application to receive 50% of the other’s benefit while delaying until age 70. This would not maximize your two benefits, only delaying both to age 70 would do that – but it would give you some benefits now and allow one of you to receive a spousal benefit.

      Otherwise, when you reach age 70 and file for your benefits, your wife would be eligible for a restricted application for spousal benefits from that date until she reaches age 70 and files for her own benefit. This would provide approximately 7 months’ of spousal benefits.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  31. Arlene E. says:

    I have some further information and a question. My husband will turn 70 in Nov. 2018 and I will turn 66 in July 2018 (4 months earlier) if that helps you. I was under the impression that I have to file the restricted application before the law changes because under the new law I can only collect either spousal benefits on my husband’s record, or my full benefits. I want to be able to collect both – spousal benefits at FRA (66) and my benefits at 70 so if I file the restricted application later I will be limiting my options. I also got that impression from what you wrote earlier in the article above. Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Okay, so with 4 months of difference between your reaching age 66 and your husband reaching age 70, you might want to have him file & suspend prior to April 30, 2016. This will enable you to file a restricted application for spousal benefits at your age 66, delaying your own benefit until you reach age 70.

      The only thing that must be done prior to April 30 is for your husband to file & suspend. But if this doesn’t happen, the worst that will occur is that you’d have to wait until he files at age 70 before filing the restricted application, foregoing 4 months’ of spousal benefits.

      jb

  32. Arlene E. says:

    My husband is 67 and I am 63. We have almost equal social security benefits waiting for us (his is a few dollars more). We plan to each wait until age 70 to collect our full benefits. Based on the new law, would it be correct for my husband to “file and suspend” before April 30, 2016 and not collect until he turns 70, and for me to file a “restricted application” before April 30, 2016 so I can collect spousal benefits at my FRA (66) based on his record, while not collecting on my own record until age 70. Is this the right way to go now, and will this not cause my account to be deemed? Also, are there forms to file for “file and suspend” or “restricted application”, or what do you actually do to file? Thank you!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your husband can file and suspend before April 30, 2016, and that will enable you to file a restricted application once you reach FRA. You are not eligible for a restricted application until you have reached that age. However, since your husband will be reaching age 70 by the time you reach FRA (may be a few months’ difference) the only reason he would need to suspend is if his birthday is long after yours in the year. In other words, if he will reach age 70 at or before the month that you’ll reach age 66, file and suspend is a moot point.

      If he does file and suspend, he’ll continue to delay his own benefit and accrue the delay credits until he files for his benefit at age 70 (or unsuspends). You would then at your FRA file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, receiving that amount (50% of his FRA benefit) until you file for your own benefit as late as your age 70. You would not be subject to deemed filing since you were born before 1954.

      The same for is used for file and suspend and restricted application – same form as for filing for any benefits. You’ll just need to put in the remarks section what you’re doing (if filing a paper form). Restricted application via the online system is done via a checkbox, where you indicate that you are filing only for spousal benefits and delaying your own benefit at this time.

      jb

  33. ed says:

    This is specific to my and my wife’s age and situation…

    I have been reading all the other questions but this is specific to me and my wife. Hope you can help.

    1)..I was born in 1953 will be 63 in Feb 2016. Will be FRA 2-14-2019
    2)..My wife was born 1957 and just turned 58 today.
    3)..I fall under the new restricted filing based on my reading.
    4)..My FRA benefit will be about $1750
    5)..My wife benefit at 62 benefit will be about 550 or at FRA about 690. This is my best recall.

    Question: What would I do to get her and I the highest benefit as we are 5 years apart and I have the larger SS benefit.?

    I look forward to your reply and any info that will allow her to begin getting 1/2 of my benefit at her age of 62. Also, will my benefit continue to grow @8% in this example until I decide to begin my own SS?

    Hope you can help with this example. I do understand it can not be an accurate but looking for the strategy that would pay the most for us both beginning at her age of 62 and then wait for her to file for her own at age 66.5

    Merry Christmas and thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      You do not fall into the group that can file and suspend under the old rules, so if you’re looking to delay your own benefit to age 70 your wife will only be eligible for her own benefit until you have filed.

      However, you do fall into the restricted application grandfathered group, so you could file a restricted application once your wife reaches age 62 and files for her own benefit, since you’ll be older than your FRA at that point. You would then receive 50% of her unreduced benefit (estimated as $345) plus she would receive the reduced amount of $550 at that point. Then when you file for your benefit at age 70 your wife would be eligible to file for spousal benefits at any time from then onward. If she waits until her FRA she would receive 50% of your age 66 benefit amount minus her reduction for filing for her own benefit early (estimated as $875 minus $140 for a total of $735, based on your own numbers).

      Hope this helps –

      jb

  34. Louise Tirrell says:

    My husband’s date of birth is 2/18/50 and mine is 8/11/54. Under this new rule, what would be our best plan for retirement? He plans to retire at 66. I am still working.

    1. jblankenship says:

      This is definitely not enough information to provide guidance to you, especially with such a broad question. If you’d like to engage us to provide you with guidance on the process, you can call the office (217-488-6473) or email and we can set up an appointment to discuss your needs.

      jb

  35. Bud says:

    Jim, I’m confused. If both spouses are at FRA and currently eligible for file / suspend… & restricted app, some examples show that the lower income spouse suspends, and the higher income spouse then files the restricted app for the spousal benefit. It seems that vice versa would result in a higher spousal benefit in our case. Am I missing something? My birth date is 10/17/49. I turned 66 on 10/17/15. I have not filed for any benefits, and my estimated benefit at FRA was $2519. My wife will turn 66 on 3/15/16. She worked part time and has an estimated benefit of $1650 at FRA . It looks like we will slide under the wire (age wise) for the grandfather effect. To maximize what we can collect now (while both waiting until age 70 to realize the max in delayed benefits) which one of us should file and suspend… and which should claim the spousal benefit? Seems like if she claimed the spousal benefit (1/2 of my benefit ) it would result in more than if I claimed the spousal benefit (50% of her benefit…$1650).

    1. jblankenship says:

      It can work either way – and the way you describe it (you file & suspend and your wife filing restricted) is probably the best option for you. Often when the opposite is suggested, the lower wage earner is much younger (under FRA) and the higher is over FRA or will be soon.

      At any rate, your suggested option of you filing and suspending while your wife files a restricted application will work just fine and will likely maximize your benefits.

      jb

  36. Sally says:

    My husband is 71 and started claiming his benefit at age 62. I am currently 65 and will not be 66 until September, so I will miss the file and suspend deadline. Perhaps that is irrelevant and what I have unknowingly intended to do all along is file a restricted application at FRA and then fle for my increased benefit on my own record at age 70. Is this correct?

    1. jblankenship says:

      I can’t say that I know what you planned to do, but it would stand to reason that a restricted application would pay off in your case. File and suspend would not do much for you (if you could apply it under the old rules).

      With a restricted application you can receive spousal benefits from your Full Retirement Age up to age 70 (if you desire) at which point you can file for your own, maximized benefits.

      jb

  37. Jeff says:

    Hell Jim,

    I will file and suspend effective March 2016. My wife will be age 65 when this occurs and was going to wait another year until she turns 66 to file a restricted application to gain the largest monthly payment.

    All that said, she could file the restricted a year earlier and receive a tidy monthly sum albeit a bit lower for for five years instead of four at which time she would apply for her own benefit or half of mine whichever is larger.

    Does filing the restricted application when she is 65 change anything when she reaches age 70 as far as the final pay out? Would she still garnish 8% a year from age 66 through 70? What happens during the one year if she decides to file at age 65 and not wait until 66? Is it that much of a decrease to not take it a year early and have a monthly stipend which would be great to have?

    Regards,
    Jeff

    1. jblankenship says:

      On November 10 I responded to one of your earlier questions with the following:

      2) No, she must be at FRA to file a restricted application.

      This is still true. She cannot file a restricted application before FRA.

      jb

    2. Jeff says:

      Sorry, Jim, I was at the social security office a couple of weeks back and I thought she informed me my wife could file for the spousal benefit at age 65 with a reduction. Looks like she was wrong.

  38. Richard Osborne says:

    Hi Jim:
    A question of strategy:
    My wife is 3/27/50 and I am11/07/50.
    I seek to file and suspend, but my 66th birthday is just beyond the 4/30 cutoff.
    What are my options to maximize my benefits?
    Many thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife could file and suspend, and then you could file a restricted application. Otherwise, delaying benefits to age 70 is about all you have left.

      jb

  39. JoeyF33 says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for being such a fountain of good information.

    Since my ex spouse was born prior to 1954 (2-12-51) and I was born after (1-29-57), I think that this change means I’ll have no longer have the option to claim a spousal benefit once I reach my FRA. (There goes $27.k in anticipated payments.)

    1. Does my ex-wifes’s pre-1954 birthdate mean she would be able to file for a spousal benefit once I turn 62 in 2019?
    2. If not, does she retain the Spousal Benefit option that you explained above for the married couple “Pamela and Jeffrey”?

    Thanks again for your diligent work.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, unless the rules change, your ex-spouse should be eligible for spousal benefit via a restricted application once you reach age 62, due to the fact that the divorce is more than two years prior and her birth year is before 1954.

      Otherwise, she could file for spousal benefits in the usual way under the new rules if she has filed for her own benefit previously, as described (somewhat) in the example you cited.

      jb

    2. Joe Fahey says:

      Thanks Jim,

      I want ed the clarification because when I was trying to understand the bad news about the pending changes, I’d read that file and suspend for married couples required the youngest partner to turn 62 prior to 4/30/16.

      Eventually, I saw that the relevant issue for divorced individuals is not file and suspend but rather the restricted application for spousal benefits. Thanks for your confirming opinion!

  40. Terrific article Jim and thank you for answering everyone’s questions. The Q/A helps! So here’s my situation: I am 66 (8/1949), my PIA is $2,252.00 and I have not filed. My wife will turn 66 the end of next month (1/30/2016) and her PIA is $1,149.00. We originally planned to both file and suspend and to have my wife claim a spousal benefit of which I calculate at $1,126.00 ($13,512.00 a year). However, after reading about the restricted application vs. the file and suspend technique, I want to know if the following plan is allowed or is there a more lucrative scenario. Would it behoove us to have her file to collect her $1,149.00 and me to file a restricted application on her PIA – which I calculate is $574.50 giving us a total of $1,1723.50 ($20,682.00 a year). Is this a correct extrapolation? Also – what would be the difference between the two techniques (restricted application vs file and suspend/spousal benefit) Perhaps I am missing a key factor here but if not, we stand to gain a cool $7K annually.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Michael, you’re confusing factors. File and suspend is what *one* spouse does to enable the other spouse to file for spousal benefits. The spousal benefits may be from a restricted application or may be a normal application. Both spouses do NOT file and suspend.

      So, in your situation, you have two clear options (there are many other options but these are the primary ones) –

      1) you could file and suspend, allowing your wife to file a restricted application for a benefit of approximately $1,126, which she would receive for four years (potentially). Then at your age 70 you would file for your DRC-enhanced benefit of approximately $2,973, and at your wife’s age 70 she would file for her own benefit, increased to approximately $1,517. This would give you a total household benefit of approximately $4,490.
      2) your wife could file for her own benefit, and you could file a restricted application. As you calculated, this would give you a household benefit of approximately $1,723 for the intervening 31 months until you reach FRA. Then you’d file for your maximized benefit as calculated previously at $2,973, for a total household benefit of $4,122.

      The first option provides $4,416 more per year after your age(s) of 70, while the second option provides you with current income for the coming 31 months that would be $7,164 per year more than the first option – a total of approximately $18,507 more over those 31 months. After 4 1/2 years the first option overtakes the second option in terms of total benefit paid.

      jb

      1. Michael S says:

        Thank you for your speedy reply Jim! We’re scheduled to see SS Monday afternoon so I really appreciate your advice. It confirms my initial plan to pursue the second option. As you point out, the drawbacks in filing the restricted application scenario now is the future accrual after the 4 1/2 years at age 70 (yes, I leave future bucks on the table) and an inability to file for a retro lump sum should I have a life-shortening situation prior to my reaching 70. As you can sense, we wanted to collect some SS benefits now so we could start enjoying a semi-retirement life style while we’re able to do so. But I can’t help but ask if you see any other option for us that maximizes our benefits?

  41. Paul Warren says:

    I’m 64 and my wife is 63. I started taking SS at 62. My wife is retiring (63) and we are trying to decide what strategy to use.
    My current benefit is 1695 and my PIA is 2260. Her PIA is 1577.

    If I suspend benefits at FRA and my wife waits until FRA can she file a restricted app for spousal benefits?

    Thanks, Paul

    1. jblankenship says:

      No – a suspension of benefits after April 30, 2016 will result in all benefits payable on that earner’s record to also be suspended. This is part of the new law that was passed in early November with the budget act.

      But you don’t have to suspend, if you just continue receiving your benefit your wife, having been born before 1954, is eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits. She can then delay filing for her own benefit until as late as age 70.

      If your wife was born in 1954 or later, she could not file a restricted application.

      jb

  42. Susan says:

    It’s late here, so maybe I’m not getting something that is right in front of me. This doesn’t seem to clearly address options for single people. I am 66 & considering file & suspend. I might let it just run out & start at the highest level at 70, but if I find that I need the lump sum before I reach 70, can I still get it if I file & suspend before that April date? It seemed like a good “insurance policy” before all this. Please talk about singles. Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you are able to file and suspend before April 30, 2016 you will have the old rules working for you, meaning that you can get the lump sum as before if you change your mind. After that date, no dice. This is the same for singles as well as married couples.

      jb

      1. Susan says:

        Thank you Thank you

  43. Bo Links says:

    OK, here goes. And this really is hard for a layperson to fully comprehend. I am at FRA (born 8-25-49). I plan on filing & suspending prior to the April 29th deadline next year.

    My wife will be 65 at the end of next March (dob – 3-31-51). Can she wait another year, until 3-31-17, to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only? And if she does, will her benefits continue to grow while she collects spousal benefits between 66 & 70?

    In short: can the spouse delay filing the restricted app once the other spouse has filed and suspended?

    You article(s) are VERY helpful…this is just a blank spot for me. Thanks!

    1. jblankenship says:

      There is no time limit for your wife to file the restricted application. She’s eligible for it by virtue of her date of birth being before 1954.

      jb

  44. Mark says:

    Hi Jim,
    Hi Jim,
    I was born 1/3/1949. I filed and suspended when I reached FRA. My wife was born 11/28/1949 and reaches FRA this month. My monthly benefit with DRC will be around $3,500 at my age 70. Her FRA benefit is projected to be $1,014, her age 70 benefit $1,438. She plans on filing a restricted application this month for only spousal benefits thereby getting 1/2 of my FRA benefit of $2,650 or $1,325. When I turn 70 (in 1/2019) and start collecting my delayed monthly benefit ($3,500) will she then be able to recieve 1/2 of my age 70 benefit, ie, $1,750 for as long as she lives? Or would she be restricted to receiving only 1/2 of my FRA benefit for as long as we both are alive?
    Given the specifics, would her filing a restricted application for spousal benefits this month be the best strategy assuming she lives till 90 and I to 85?
    Thanks in advance for your help.
    Mark

    1. jblankenship says:

      Spousal benefit is never based on an amount greater than the other spouse’s PIA (also known as the FRA benefit amount). So the maximum spousal benefit your wife can receive is $1,325 (plus COLAs). She could then switch over to her own benefit at her age 70 when it’s larger than the spousal.

      I can’t tell you if this is the best strategy or not – but it does maximize your total benefits over the time period you’ve listed.

      jb

  45. Ted says:

    I am 68 and took my SS benefit within months of being eligible. My spouse is turning 66 in April, 2015, and he wants to file to receive half of my benefit, continue working (he is self employed) and take his full benefit at a later date.

    1) Is a restricted application the correct way to go? Are there new forms reflecting this request or is this best accomplished in person at the SS office?
    2) Does this now or ever affect the amount I receive?
    3) Can my spouse decide earlier than age 70 to take his own benefit, and how does he do that?
    4) How far ahead can he file, and if he can file months in advance is there any reason to wait?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Taking your questions in order:

      1) Yes, what you have described for your husband is a restricted application. This is done via the regular form, indicating that you wish to restrict the application to spousal benefits only.
      2) No.
      3) Yes, any time after filing the restricted application he can file for his own benefit, using the same form or online process, only indicating he wants to file for his own benefit and not the spousal.
      4) Generally the recommendation is to file within 3 months of when you’d like the benefit to begin.

      jb

      1. Ted says:

        Thank you!!!

  46. Paul Ratzmann says:

    We’ll need a next edition of your social security book now.

  47. […] The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application by Jim Blankenship […]

    1. Mark Bernstein says:

      Jim,
      Thanks for your well written and expert explanation. There is one comment you make in the “Restricted Application” for those born before 1953 which confuses me: “This is allowed based upon the fact that your spouse has filed – if your spouse has suspended receipt of benefits, the new suspend rules will apply.”
      As I understand it, those of us who are CURRENTLY FRA, or older, can use the file and suspend option for the higher earner (and in my case older earner who has already filed and suspended), while the lower earner spouse can file and restrict her benefit to a spousal benefit. This would allow BOTH spouses to take advantage of DRC (delayed retirement credits) so when they reach age 70 they will each be getting their FRA benefit x 32%. In the meantime, the lower earner spouse could be collecting spousal benefits from age 66 until she reaches 70 based on her spouse’s FRA benefit which he suspended. BUT (here’s the part that confuses me) in the quote I provided you state if “your spouse has suspended receipt of benefits, the new suspend rules will apply.” Don’t the new rules ban the the collecting of spousal benefits while delaying one’s own benefit for accrual advantages?

      1. jblankenship says:

        It’s implied above that paragraph that only suspensions done by April 30, 2016 will have the old rules applied. The assumption is that the suspend being described (which you quoted) is after that date.

        Your strategy is just fine since you filed and suspended prior to April 30, 2016, and your wife was born before 1954.

        Thank you for pointing out the ambiguity, I will update the article to be more clear on this point.

        jb

        1. Mark Bernstein says:

          Thank you for your help. You are a great resource.

    2. Yvonne says:

      I don’t feel very confident jumping into this arena yet I’ll try. My husband qualified for early SS Oct 2015 he was born in 1953. He applied and will receive his first check at the end of December. I was born in 1957 is there anything we should or could do as far as these strategies go.

      1. jblankenship says:

        There really are very few options for you, now that the rules have changed. Once you reach age 62 you could file for (effectively) the higher of your own reduced benefit or the spousal benefit, or you could delay that filing to a later date and take less of a reduction. If you delay past your Full Retirement Age (66 years and 6 months) then you will earn 8% per year of delay. There will be no option to receive other benefits in the interim if you’re delaying your benefits.

        jb

    3. Jim,

      In reviewing the comments I didn’t see one to match my situation so if you will give me your thoughts I’d appreciate it.

      My wife (DOB 1/4/1949) has been collecting benefits of about $1800/month for 3 years. I (DOB 2/1/1952) am not collecting benefits but I am entitled to collect about $2200/month if I did. We have no dependents. Under the new law:

      1) I will still be able to file and suspend when I turn 66 (FRA),

      2) At that time I should file for restricted spousal benefits which will be 1/2 of my wife’s benefit.

      3) My benefit will continue to grow about 8% a year until 70 1/2.

      1. jblankenship says:

        Regarding your questions in order:
        1) no you do not file and suspend – you want to file a restricted application for spousal benefits. If you file and suspend you cannot do that.
        2) Yes, you would file a restricted application at your FRA entitling you to 50% of your wife’s PIA. This will be more than 50% of her current benefit since she started her benefit earlier than her FRA.
        3) Yes, your benefits will accrue the delay credits up to age 70.

        jb

  48. Pam Poulk says:

    My DOB:9/1951, my husband 9/1949. Husband is retired and receives his SS. I want to file for his which will be 1/2 of what he now gets and save mine until I reach 70 1/2. So, when can I file and is it the “restricted application?”

    1. jblankenship says:

      When you reach Full Retirement Age of 66 years you will be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits.

      jb

  49. Confused says:

    One question: Precisely HOW do you file a restricted application; i.e., what form, verbiage, etc. do we need to use, especially in case the rep at Social Security doesn’t know what I’m talking about? I can’t find any information on how to properly do the actual filing once the spouse has completed file-and-suspend. Thank you.

    1. jblankenship says:

      It is exactly the same form as you would use to file for your own benefit. In the online application there is a checkbox with the following:

      If you are eligible for both retirement benefits and spouse’s benefits, do you want to delay receipt of retirement benefits?

      Checking that box will set you up with a restricted application for Spousal Benefits.

      jb

  50. Jeff says:

    Jim,

    Thanks for the great answer. I am still a bit confused not by your answer, but when to do certain things.

    Did I read correctly that my wife would have to be FRA to file a restricted application?
    If that is the case, do I need to do anything at that time which would be March 2017 when I am 67.

    Do I need to file and suspend prior to April 30, 2016 in order to allow my wife to have the option of the restricted filing when she turns FRA in March 2017?

    I might still be working in 2017. Does tax consequences come into play with income or not since we would both be FRA although I would not be taking mine? (or maybe yes I will).

    Does it make any sense based upon our ages (birth dates in March – me in 1950 and she in 1951) not to do something rather than just letting our social security go from year to year until we desire to take it. Some say wait until we are both 70 and then take SS God willing I could last that long at work. Yikes!

    Thanks for the input , Jim. I would hate to miss out on an opportunity to do something that should be done and not do it because of the new law taking place in April, 2016.

    God bless you,
    Jeff

    1. jblankenship says:

      Taking your questions in order:

      1) Yes, your wife must be FRA to file a restricted application. You do not need to do anything at that time as long as you have at least filed if not filed and suspended your own benefit.
      2) Yes, you must at least file by the time she reaches FRA, but if you want to delay your benefits you must suspend prior to April 30, 2016 in order to enable her to collect the spousal benefit while you delay your benefit.
      3) If you’re suspending your benefit you don’t have to pay taxes on it (?) There are a lot of crazy tax laws out there but none the require you to pay tax on a Social Security benefit that you’re not receiving.
      4) Since you’re eligible to enact the file & suspend option by April 30, 2016 and your wife is eligible for a restricted application, you may as well take advantage of these options – to not do so is leaving benefits on the table, and there is no downside to taking this. If my emails and comments here are any indication, thousands of people would love to have the options you have available to you.

      jb

      1. Jeff says:

        I should go to SS and file and suspend after I turn 66 in March 2016?
        Can my wife who is 65 at the same time, file a restricted application or solely a spousal benefit?
        Once past April 30, 2016 and I file and suspend prior, can my wife make a restricted application in March 2017 when she is 66 (FRA) or is only the spousal benefit available?
        If she take something past the deadline, does her SS grow or does she only receive the spousal benefit for life?

        My scenario seems fairly straightforward and just want to make sure we are not leaving money on the table when we could be taking it.

        I might be working full time in 2017 so how does that impact what my wife is doing with SS and earning less than the maximum SS allowed?

        1. jblankenship says:

          Again, your questions in order:
          1) Yes, if you want to enable your wife to receive a spousal benefit while you delay receiving yours. If you don’t want either of those options, then you do no need to file and suspend by April 30, 2016.
          2) No, she must be at FRA to file a restricted application.
          3) Yes your wife can file a restricted application when she reaches FRA if you have either filed prior to that date or filed and suspended prior to April 30, 2016. I don’t know what you mean by “… or is only the spousal benefit available?” – a restricted application is exactly that, only the spousal benefit.
          4) What deadline?
          5) Your work has no impact on your wife’s benefits, other than potentially (likely) increasing the taxability of the benefits. There is no earnings limit for you while she is receiving benefits – and there is no earnings limit for her if she’s over FRA and receiving benefits.

          jb

          1. Jeff says:

            Hopefully, one last one, Jim.
            If my wife files for the restricted application when she turns 66 after I have filed a file and suspend from the year before and then I decide to take my SS at age 67 does that affect her taking half of my SS or does she go on and still allow her SS to grow until which time she decides to take it?
            Thanks,
            Jeff

          2. jblankenship says:

            Great, this is the one I’ve been looking for then. :)

            The only thing that impacts her ability to receive the spousal benefit is the fact that you have filed for your benefits and the fact that you’re suspending by April 30, 2016. Whatever you do after that has no bearing on her benefits, either the spousal or her own as she delays to receive the delay credits.

            jb

      2. Jeff says:

        Jim,

        Thanks for the patience of a saint.
        After reading your answers and reading all I can online, I plan to file and suspend when I turn 66 in March 2016. My wife will be 66 in 2017. She then anticipates applying for a restricted (or is this a spousal benefit?) filing and request half of my SS.

        Finally, a concrete plan, Jim. Does this sound like the workable solution based upon the new law?

        I do squeak in under the wire, however, my wife and I plan to make an appointment and go in person to the local SS office and hopefully set the wheels in motion ahead of time.

        Thanks so much for the assistance you have given me and so many others during this time of crisis and quick thinking since time is running out.

        Regards,
        Jeff

        1. jblankenship says:

          Yes, your plan is completely possible, and it utilizes the old rules while you have them available.

          jb

          1. Jeff says:

            Jim,

            You are a God send for me and all the other posters on your website.
            Thank you for your clarity and explanations. Looks like we have been blessed with my turning 66 before the deadline of the file and suspend being terminated.

            Regards,
            Jeff

  51. Nivia Montenegro says:

    Hello,

    I sent a question last night via e-mail and checked your site today but there is no answer. Could you please check under my name–Nivia Montenegro–and let me know what is your advice? My husband was born July 1, 1950 and plans to retire at FRA. I was born in September 9, 1050 and plan to retire at age 70. Any options of my husband filing a restricted application<

    Thank you very much,

    1. Nivia Montenegro says:

      still waiting for reply to my question posted on November 9. Any answers for us?

      Thanks

      1. jblankenship says:

        I responded to your question on November 9 – see the original comment and response on the original article that you commented on: http://financialducksinarow.com/9617/file-suspend-and-restricted-application-are-not-equal/#comment-8914

        jb

  52. Blair says:

    My wife is currently 63 and I am 62, both born before 1954. Since my wife will reach FRA before me can she file a Restricted Application and receive spousal benefits before I reach FRA or must she wait until I reach FRA? I plan to wait unitl 70 to receive my benefits. Thanks

    1. jblankenship says:

      She will have to wait until you have filed for your benefit. In the past you could have filed and suspended at FRA to enable your wife to begin collecting Spousal Benefits. Since you’re planning to delay benefits to age 70, your wife will not be able to collect Spousal Benefits until you have filed.

      jb

  53. Wayne Monday says:

    Jim – I checked with the AARP and TRowePrice calculation websites and they are both under reconstruction to be able to account for the recent changes. I will be 67 next Jan and my wife will be 62 next June. The plan was (using TRowe calculator earlier) to file next June (for myself) a restricted application to spousal benefits and my wife would file to begin receiving her own also – in June next year after she turns 62. My half year SS spousal income would have been $6357 and the half year 2016 SS income for my wife would have been $9536. In 2017 those amounts double and continued at that until I would have taken my full SS in 2019 which would have been $41,469 annually. What strategy/deadline dated – would you now suggest we take that would most closely match this outcome ?

    Many thanks for a reply Jim.

    Wayne Monday — Michigan

    1. jblankenship says:

      The strategy you have outlined should still work under the new rules. The primary operative fact is that you were born before 1954, thus making the restricted application still available to you as before. Your wife’s birth year does not factor into the equation since she is not utilizing file & suspend or restricted application. She can still access the Spousal Benefit upon your filing for your own benefit at age 70, or she could delay a bit longer to her FRA in order to pick up a bit more in Spousal Benefits.

      jb

      1. Wayne Monday says:

        Thanks Jim — I appreciate your quick reply and advise.
        Wayne

      2. Wayne Monday says:

        Should I file for restricted application ASAP, or should I do so when she is able to file next June — not sure if the changed rules effect that timing.
        I have been reading many of the inquiries included in your related article “File & Suspend and Restricted Application are NOT Equal”
        I very much appreciate the advice you are providing — and I see there appears to be many options in how the filings can take place. How would you recommend I am able to explore and select the best option ?

        1. jblankenship says:

          You will not be able to file a restricted application until your wife has filed for her benefits – that’s cut and dried. There is nothing else that you need to do other than to continue your plan as originally set.

          jb

  54. Jeff says:

    Sorry, Jim, a bit more detail on my last comment.
    Can my wife apply for a restricted application when I turn 66 in March 2016 although I would choose not to receive my social security that year?

    1. Bob says:

      Jeff,
      Thank you very much for your invaluable service; making an unnecessarily complicated situation understandable. I have been poring over your posts and comments. Please let me know if my plan is legitimate and rational.

      I am 64 with a FRA 2/17 and a PIA of $2400. My wife is 65 with a FRA 6/16 and a PIA of $500. Our plan, made 4 years ago before she turned 62, was for her to start benefits at FRA, and then file for spousal benefits when I File and Suspend at my FRA. Unfortunately, as a result of the new budget bill I am about 3 months too young for that plan, costing us about $30K. I am hoping for a letter of thanks from the SS Disability program for our contribution toward its short term solvency. Ironically, knowing what we know now, I think the best plan would have been for her to start benefits at age 62.

      Back to the present situation. Now it seems as if our best option to maximize lifetime payout is for her to either file immediately (which will slightly reduce her future spousal benefit) or wait until FRA to file. I haven’t yet run this comparison, but the calculation seems straightforward. When I get to age 70 and file for full benefits, she will file for and get a spousal benefit of $1200 (or slightly below if she files now).

      Also, as part of this plan, you seem to be advising something which I was told was not allowed: for me to file a RA at my FRA to collect a $250 monthly spousal benefit for the 4 years until I turn age 70, at which time my wife will file for and then start collecting a spousal benefit of about $1200.

      Is it legitimate for both of us to collect spousal benefits (albeit not simultaneously)? Assuming a normal life expectancy, will this plan allow us to maximize our SS return?

      Thanks again for your help, for all of us.

      1. Bob says:

        Oops; I meant to direct this question to JIm. Sorry for the confusion.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Doubt if Jeff minds much. :)

      2. jblankenship says:

        Regarding the old plan, you missed by more than 3 months – in order to file & suspend under the old rules you’d need to be FRA before April 30, 2016, so you missed it by about 10 months.

        At any rate, with regard to your questions – if your wife is actively receiving benefits when you reach FRA, you will be eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, and then later when you reach age 70 you could file for your own benefits. You’re allowed to do this since you were born before 1954.

        Later, when you reach age 70 and file for your own benefit, your wife could file for Spousal Benefits, which would increase her overall benefit by the spousal excess (estimated as $700) which would be added to her reduced benefit. She could file for her own benefit either now at age 65 (reduction of 3-4% at maximum) or wait until she reaches FRA – either filing date will work to allow you to file for Spousal Benefits based on her record. Alternatively she could wait until you reach FRA and file with a slight increase (8 months after FRA = 5.33% increase).

        Hope this helps –

        jb

    2. jblankenship says:

      No, your wife must wait until she is at FRA (in 2017 according to your prior commment). As detailed in my response, sounds like you will want to file & suspend at FRA since you meet the deadline, and then she can file a restricted application at her FRA.

      jb

  55. Jeff says:

    Hopefully, easy scenario, Jim.
    I turn 67 in March 2017. My wife turns 66 the day before. Can she file for restricted application and take half of my full social security amount with the new law? Do I have to be receiving my social security for her to take the restricted filing? I might want to work about a year longer after FRA.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife could file a restricted application when she reaches FRA, but you would need to either be actively receiving benefits at that time, or you could file and suspend when you reach FRA in March 2016, since that is before the deadline for “old style” file & suspend of April 30, 2016. Doing the file & suspend at that point would enable her to receive a restricted application Spousal Benefit while you delay receipt of your retirement benefit. She would also be delaying receipt of the benefit based on her record while receiving the Spousal Benefit due to the restricted application.

      Hope this helps.

      jb

  56. art dulik says:

    Jim,
    I will begin receiving SS benefits at 70 in August 2016. My wife is turning 62 in Nov 2015. Should she file for a spousal benefit at 62 or wait until FRA when she can file and suspend and then collect the spousal benefit ?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Since you have not filed for your benefit, your wife cannot file for the spousal benefit in November (unless you file early).

      In no way should file and suspend factor into your wife’s filing plan – she’s not old enough to use the “old rule” option, and if she files and suspends later she will stop all benefits from being received. If the spousal benefit is larger than her own benefit there’s nothing gained by suspending.

      jb

      1. art dulik says:

        Jim to clarify – I will be 70 in August 2016 and my wife is 62. I have not taken my social security and plan on waiting until I am 70.

        Do I need to formally “file and suspend” now or before April 30, 2016 to enable my wife to claim a spousal benefit when I begin to receive my SS ?

        Also if my wife claims a spousal benefit before she is 66 (her full retirement age) can she still file and suspend at 66 to enable her to claim her full benefit at age 70 ?

        1. jblankenship says:

          If your wife is not going to be filing for spousal benefits prior to your reaching age 70, there is no need for you to file and suspend. If she wants to file early for spousal benefits, prior to your reaching age 70, then you would need to file and suspend before April 30, 2016.

          As I mentioned in my earlier reply to you, your wife is not eligible for the old rule file and suspend. She could suspend all benefits after she reaches age 66 (if she has filed earlier than that age) and allow the suspended benefits to accrue delay credits. The resulting benefit at her age 70 would not be 132% of her PIA, there would be a reduction due to her claiming benefits earlier.

          If she waits until Full Retirement Age (66) she could file for spousal benefits only and delay her own benefit to age 70. This is only allowed if she has not filed for her own or the spousal benefit prior to Full Retirement Age. Since she was born before 1954 she has this option available to her.

          jb

  57. Ray B. says:

    I turn 66 (FRA) in December 2015. My wife has been receiving SS benefits since she was 62. Can I file a restricted application after I turn 66 to receive half of her PIA even though she is getting the reduced amount? My plan then would be for me to take my full benefit at 70 with my wife switching over to 50% of my benefit at that time. Does this sound like a good plan?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, you can file a restricted application for half of your wife’s PIA when you reach age 66 – when she filed doesn’t impact your Spousal Benefit, just the fact that she’s filed. Depending upon the benefit amounts, your wife may then be eligible (upon your filing at age 70) for an addition to her reduced benefit of the excess spousal benefit.

      jb

  58. JG Muffinly says:

    Great article Jim … would appreciate some advice. My BD is 6/22/52 (current age = 63.5). My wife’s BD is 6/20/52 (current age = 63.5). She’s retiring 2/12/2016, in a few months. I’m planning to retire at age 65. Her SS benefit at retirement is $1,196/mo. At age 66, it’s $1,426 and at age 70 it’s $1,882. My SS benefit at age 65 is $2,338/mo. At age 66 it’s $2,655 and at age 70 it’s $3,609. My plan, based on the new law and my reading of your articles, is as follows: Wife to file for and start her own benefits upon retirement in Feb, 2016. At my FRA of 66.0 I file a restricted application for spousal benefits only and DO NOT file for my own benefits. At age 70, I file for my own benefits and start them. At this time, my wife will file for the Spousal “excess” benefit which will be calculated as $3,609 x 50% – $1,196. We don’t need the cash flow but want to maximize lifetime benefits. Both of us are in good health. Question: do I have the right plan, and right understanding? Thanks in advance!

    1. jblankenship says:

      Everything about your plan is correct except for the amount of Spousal Excess benefit that your wife will receive. It is based on 50% of your PIA, which is $2,655, so the max is $1,327. From this we subtract her PIA, which is $1,426. At that amount we come up with a negative, so there is no excess spousal benefit for your wife.

      jb

  59. Mark Schmidt says:

    I was born in July 1955 and my wife in August 1953. The way I read your article, we’re no longer eligible for either file and suspend or file and restrict since neither of us will have reached FRA by next April?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Your wife could still be eligible for filing a restricted application when she reaches FRA. In order for her to do this you would need to file for your benefit, which would be early (2 years or more before FRA) if you plan for her to start at her FRA. Otherwise, you could file at FRA and she could file a restricted application for Spousal Benefits at that point. Either way she could delay her own benefit to age 70 if it would be greater than the spousal benefit by that point. If her own benefit would never increase to an amount larger than the Spousal Benefit then none of the above matters, since a restricted application is not needed.

      jb

  60. Marci L says:

    My husband is 66 and is receiving SS. I am 62 and continue to work. Our plan was for me to take spousal benefits when I reach 66 and wait till I am 70 to take my full benefit. Do I understand this right that I will need to wait until FRA to implement thisstill via the restricted application? Thanks, Marci

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, that’s the only way you could receive Spousal Benefits while delaying your own benefit to age 70.

  61. Bud Dennison says:

    My birth date is 10/17/49. I turned 66 on 10/17/15. I have not filed for any benefits, and my estimated benefit at FRA is $2479. My wife will turn 66 on 3/15/16. She worked part time while raising our family, and she has an estimated benefit of $1650 at FRA. It looks like we will slide under the wire (age wise) if I want to file and suspend (when she turns 66), and she could then collect the spousal benefit. She would realize ~$1250 (50% of mine), and then later…we BOTH will be able to realize that 8% growth on uncollected benefits when we reach age 70…right?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Bud – Yes, you’re one of the fortunate few that will still be able to utilize this option. As long as you file and suspend prior to April 30, 2016 your wife will be allowed to collect spousal benefits via the restricted application while both of you continue to delay your benefits until as late as age 70.

      jb

  62. Steve says:

    Fantastic article! Question for you. Husband was born in 1950 and spouse born in 1953. Husband turns 66 (FRA) in January of 2016. If he were to file and suspend, could wife collect spousal benefit? If so, she couldn’t do this until her FRA at 66… correct?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, in your circumstances you could still file and suspend at your FRA in January 2016, and since your wife was born before 1954 she can still file a restricted application under the old rules when she reaches her FRA.

      jb

      1. Oscar says:

        Thank you for the feedback.

  63. Oscar says:

    This change affects our plans. I was born in 1953 my wife in 1960. I was planning to file and suspend at my FRA then start my benefits when I’m 70. My wife was going to apply for spouse benefits at her FRA at 67. We both work and have approximately equal stand alone benefits.

    With the change in law, we are looking for alternatives to maximize income since deeming appears to apply to her.

    Since I was born in 53, can a reverse strategy work? My wife would take her benefits at 62. I would apply for a restricted application at 69 on her benefit and allow mine to grow for 1 more year. Then at 70 switch to my own.

    My wife would then suspend her benefit to allow it to grow, then reactivate at either her FRA or 70.

    Are there better options?

    1. jblankenship says:

      That’s really the only strategy that you have left under the new rules. It should work just as you’ve described, unless the rules change again.

      jb

  64. trevor lynfatt says:

    Hi Jim,
    i was wondering if we should collect now instead of waiting until i am 66,
    my wife is 66 born Sep 1949 and i am 63+ born Jun-1952, she did not work and my PIA is $2611/month. thank you

    1. jblankenship says:

      It’s a personal call – by filing now your benefit will be ~83% of your PIA, possibly as little as $2,175 but likely a bit more by the time you file. Your wife’s Spousal Benefit would be 50% of your PIA or approximately $1,305, so your total benefit would be something north of $3,400 per month. Compare that with waiting another couple of years to your age 66, when you’d receive as a couple roughly $500 more per month.

      The trade-off is getting benefits now at a lower rate (about 85% or so in round figures) but receiving this benefit for 2 1/2 more years.

      jb

  65. Jeff Bloom says:

    Here is my current situation. I turn 66 in August. My wife, currently age 64 has been on SS since age 62, receiving a very small benefit . I filed a restricted app in Aug to get half her PIA. I was going to wait till she turns 66 in 2017 and then file and suspend so my wife could get ½ of my PIA (less her reduction for her filing at 62). Based on the new rules, should I file and suspend now to be grandfathered in? I am not planning on taking SS till age 70.

    1. Jeff Bloom says:

      To clarify: I already turned 66 a few months ago in August.

    2. jblankenship says:

      In order for your wife to be eligible for the Spousal Benefit when she reaches age 66 you will need to file and suspend prior to April 30, 2016. This will effectively eliminate your Spousal Benefit that you’ve been receiving on the restricted app (based on her benefit) but it will open the door for her to receive the larger benefit of 50% of your PIA minus her reduction for filing early.

      I think if the Spousal Benefit you’ve been receiving is relatively small in comparison to the Spousal Benefit that your wife will receive at her FRA, this is a pretty good tradeoff.

      jb

      1. Jeff Bloom says:

        Thanks so much for the reply. That is most likely what I will do. But if I did not file and suspend prior to April 30, 2016, what is the earliest my wife can get the spousal (50%) benefit? I am a little unclear when you stated in the article regarding waiting till after April 20, 2016 that “…all benefits paid on your record are suspended as well. This means that if you suspend your benefits, your spouse and children will not be allowed to receive a benefit based on your record while your benefit is suspended.”

        1. jblankenship says:

          The earliest that your wife could receive benefits (if you do not file and suspend) is when you have actually filed for your benefits and have begun receiving them. So if you file and suspend after April 30, 2016 or if you simply do not file at all until you reach age 70, the result is the same for your wife’s spousal benefit – she won’t receive anything until you start receiving benefits.

          jb

          1. Jeff Bloom says:

            Last question: let’s say I do nothing before April 30, 2016 and wait till age 70 to file. Does the spousal benefit my wife gets at my age 70 equal to one half of my PIA (meaning my age 66 amount) less less her reduction for taken SS for filing at age 62?

  66. nathan mann says:

    Thank you for this in advance. I am 62 (born 12/16/52), my wife is 60(birthdate 3/18/55) . Maximal benefits for us both. Did we just lose the file and restrict options we had before?
    Are there any useful spousal benefits available to either of us?
    Am I correct that if we can afford to delay and our health is decent we should both file and suspend? If our health suddenly turns worse can we then file to get a lump sum before we croak?
    Thank you again, great website.
    Nathan Mann

    1. jblankenship says:

      Nathan – there is no benefit to file and suspend for either of you under the new rules. If you were eligible to file and suspend prior to April 30, 2016 you would still have the old rules in effect for you, meaning that you could potentially utilize the lump-sum option later. However, since you won’t be at FRA until much later than April 30, 2016, this option is not available to you.

      Given the circumstances you’ve provided, there are no spousal benefit options that you could utilize to increase benefits for you and your wife.

      jb

  67. Michael C. says:

    Jim,

    Does the new suspend rules also apply for the excess spousal benefit? For example, if my spouse and I were both born after 1954, she files and suspends at FRA, and I later file and have a deemed filing and qualify for an excess spousal benefit, will my excess spousal benefit be suspended until she unsuspends her benefits?

    Thanks for all your help.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, all benefits payable to any person based on an application that has been suspended will also be suspended. So any Spousal Benefit (excess or otherwise), dependents’ benefits, etc., will be suspended. The only non-suspended benefit payable on an individual’s record (while suspended) is a Spousal Benefit paid to an ex-spouse, as long as the marriage lasted 10 or more years.

      jb

  68. Skip Love says:

    I reached FRA July 2015, I was planning to File & Suspend August 2016 since my wife will reach FRA in Sept 2016. Based on what I have read, I called SS on 11/2 and set up an appointment to do F & S; next available opening is 12/21/15 (they are busy!). I wanted to do in person versus online to have proof that I did F & S before 4/30/16 deadline. My question is-do I specify during the application process when I want to F & S to start?. I want to delay until March or so – this impacts what I can put in my HSA, which stops when I F & S, since Medicare part A is triggered (whether I want it or not), and HSA contributions must stop. Thanks in advance for your advice. Skip

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, you can specify the month that you intend to make the application (file) as well as when you plan to suspend. With an appointment in December, that’s right about the time you should do such a filing for a March start date, 2-3 months in advance.

      jb

  69. Cindy Clardy says:

    How would a divorcee born before 1954 know whether her ex-spouse has filed and suspended or not? Social Security won’t supply that information and I wouldn’t want to discover I’m being deemed at 66 next year when I plan to file a restricted application for ex-spousal benefits after April 30. What if the ex-spouse files and suspends after divorced ex-spouse benefits begin?

    1. jblankenship says:

      If you were born before 1954 and it’s been more than two years since your divorce from the marriage of more than 10 years, you will be eligible for a restricted application upon reaching FRA – no deeming will apply to you. If two years has passed you’re independent of your ex’s filing actions.

      jb

  70. Jim, is it safe to register online on the SSA website for a File-and-Suspend strategy? Can that be done via online registration?

    1. jblankenship says:

      You can do the file and suspend online, but it’s not a “program” or check-box option. You are presented with a free-form text box at the end of the application, and within this box you will explain that you are immediately suspending your application upon filing.

      The other ways to do this are much more certain – that is, you get immediate confirmation that SSA understands your intent. I’m always nervous about the online option, as it requires someone to read your text and take the appropriate action. If it was me I’d invest a half day in going to the SSA office or calling them on the phone, in order to have that additional assurance.

      Either way, you should get confirmation of your filing afterwards, and presumably if they misunderstood or just got it wrong you could appeal and have them change your filing.

      jb

  71. Alan S. says:

    A question regarding grandfathered (pre-1954) claimants: assume that due to the spouse’s age and/or income record, spousal benefits are not an issue, nor are there any child, divorce, or other complications. Is there merit to the idea of filing and suspending at FRA in order to preserve the ability to file for a retroactive lump-sum payment in the event of health deterioration resulting in a likelihood of death prior to age 70 (or even after age 70, such that present value of aggregate benefits prior to expected death is greater with the lump-sum plus the lower monthly benefit payment prior to death)?

    Also, does the right to file for a lump sum during the above file and suspend period (prior to age 70) end immediately upon death of the claimant such that in the event of a sudden, unexpected death (e.g., auto accident) the estate is out of luck? (Have you ever seen a rush to the SS office or post office in such a circumstance?)

    Many thanks for a reply, Jim.

    Alan S. in New Jersey

    1. jblankenship says:

      Alan – I believe the lump-sum option is still available if you have filed and suspended prior to April 30, 2016. For some, this might be a good option, and I don’t know offhand of a downside.

      Unfortunately, if there is a sudden death prior to “un-suspending”, all is lost, other than survivor benefits that would be applied as if the decedent had filed for benefits on the date of death.

      Hope this helps –

      jb

      1. Alan S. says:

        Jim: I dug a little further and came up with this:

        The budget bill adds subsection (z) to the Social Security Act and the relevant part reads: ‘‘(3) In the case of an individual who requests that such benefits be suspended under this subsection, for any month during the period in which the suspension is in effect—(A) no retroactive benefits (as defined in sub-section (j)(4)(B)(iii)) shall be payable to such individual”. Sub-section (j)(4)(B)(iii) reads: “ . . . the term ‘retroactive benefits’ means benefits to which an individual becomes entitled for a month prior to the month in which the application for such benefits is filed.” (For example, when someone is inadvertently late in filing and asks for the filing to be treated as if made six months earlier under sub-section (j)(1)(B).)

        In order to “request that payment of such benefits be suspended” under the new subsection (z), an individual must first (or at the same time) have filed an application for benefits, otherwise how could benefits be suspended? But under the above definition, a lump sum request under POMS GN 02409.130 (“Voluntary Suspension Reinstatement”) is not a payment of “retroactive benefits” since the amount requested relates to months AFTER the application for benefits was filed (and suspended). So it seems to me that lump sum lives on for everyone.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Alan – I tend to agree, although I bet that the intent was otherwise and will likely be amended.

          Thank you for taking the time to dig into this further! I truly appreciate it.

          BTW, have we crossed paths online elsewhere, such as Slott’s site?

          jb

          1. Alan S. says:

            Jim:
            Glad to do the digging.
            I don’t recall having crossed paths before, but it is possible, although I am not generally an active poster.

            Alan

          2. jblankenship says:

            I think it was someone else.

            Look at 202(z)(1)(A)(ii) – this section says that a resumption of benefits that were suspended can only begin with the month following the month of the request to resume payments, or age 70.

            Seems like the lump-sum strategy is indeed dead if the suspend is done after April 30, 2016.

            jb

  72. Ron Bremer says:

    I reached FRA last month. My wife is 63 so she meets the grandfathered provision for restricted application. We intended for me to file when I reach 70 and at that time, she would file a restricted application for spousal benefits while waiting to file under her own record at age 70. Will this option still be available then (absent yet another law change)? Or do I have to file and suspend within next 6 months in order for it to still work in 2019? Thanks.

    1. jblankenship says:

      Ron, as long as you are planning to file for your benefit by the time your wife reaches FRA, you shouldn’t need to do anything different. However, if your wife is reaching age 66 a year before you’re 70, you could file and suspend at this point (before April 30, 2016) and then she’d be eligible for a restricted application when she reaches age 66.

      jb

  73. Peter Gomory says:

    So I was born in 1948, am 67 and still working, have not filed anything and won’t until I have to when I’m 70. My wife is ‘only’ 57… so it seems to me that there is nothing for me to do?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Sounds about right, Peter. Less complication is better, right?

      jb

  74. Ron Gilbert says:

    Jim,

    My wife who has the lower benefit is 64 and I am 63. When she files at FRA, will I still be able to file a restricted application for spousal benefits a year later when I reach FRA?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Yes, since you were born before 1954, the restricted application is still available to you.

      jb

      1. So confused! So I reach FRA in January and spouse who is the higher earner reaches FRA in June. Just missed out on file & suspend by one month!!! If I file and get benefits in Jan can he file a restricted app and get spousal on mine while his continues to grow till 70? He intends to work until 70.

        1. jblankenship says:

          Karen –

          Sure! and of course you could still file and suspend since you will be at FRA before April 30, 2016. Your husband doesn’t have to reach FRA by that date, he only needs to have been born before 1954 in order to file a restricted application – which is valid if you file and suspend or just file.

          Hope this helps –

          jb

          1. Thanks and just to clarify I could either file in Jan and collect or file and suspend and then when my spouse reaches FRA in June he can file a restricted app to collect spousal on me while his earnings continue to grow and then at 70 claim on his earnings. This new law really put a crimp in our plans! Your article was so helpful.

          2. jblankenship says:

            Yes, that’s correct as you have restated.

  75. Sandra Flint says:

    I don’t see where this article addresses ex-spousal restricted benefits. I was born in September of 1951. I was married for 24 years and have been divorced for 14 years. I was planning to file a restricted spousal (ex-spousal) benefit in September of 2017 which would be my FRA. How does this Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 affect me as an ex-spouse?

    1. jblankenship says:

      Being born before 1954, the divorcee spouse benefits continue to work the same as before for you. The restricted application will be available to you when you reach FRA, which will provide you with spousal benefits while your own benefit continues to grow.

      jb

      1. Sandra Flint says:

        Coincidentally, I took the day off from work to visit the SS office to inquire about my spousal benefit and my delayed benefit. After getting good news I came home to find your article about this new Bipartisan Budget Act. What a relief to hear it doesn’t affect me! Thanks so much for responding quickly Jim.

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