Q: With all of the changes to Social Security, I'm not really sure but I think I'm going to miss out on some benefits. I just turned 62 last June and my spouse will turn 62 in October. Since neither of us is reached full retirement age, can we submit a restricted application for benefits? From what I have been reading, since we have not reached full retirement age, we are stuck. — Carl Richardson, Killeen, Texas
A: Not so stuck. According to Rob Kron, head of investment and retirement education for BlackRock, your spouse won’t have the option of filing a restricted application, but you do have that option because you reached age 62 last year.
The semi-bad news? “You must wait until your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 to do so, and you must be eligible for a spousal benefit at that point,” says Kron. “This means your spouse will have to have filed for her individual benefit before you can file the restricted application.”
And this, says Kron, may or may not be helpful. “Because your wife will only be 64 when you reach your FRA, she will be required to collect a reduced individual benefit in order for you to file the restricted application when you turn 66,” he says. “Under the old rules, she could later choose to suspend her individual benefit at FRA (thereby earning the raise) and not impact the spousal benefit you were collecting; that will not be the case for the two of you.”
Given the recent changes to Social Security rules, Kron says a request to suspend individual benefits made after April 29 of this year will also result in the suspension of any spousal and dependent benefits being collected based on that earner’s record. “In other words, if your spouse suspends her individual benefit, your spousal benefit would stop as well,” he says.
So, the “desirability of this strategy,” says Kron, “will depend on the differences in your individual benefit amounts and the life expectancy assumptions you use. Assuming you both have similar individual benefits and you both live a long time, you might maximize lifetime benefits by both waiting until age 70 to collect.”
Robert Powell is editor of Retirement Weekly, contributes regularly to USA TODAY, The Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch. Got questions about money? Email email@example.com.