Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about whether a new application is necessary to receive retirement benefits after taking spousal benefits, taking early survivor’s benefits before retirement benefits and when Social Security considers you to be 70. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.
See more Ask Larry answers here.
Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.
Will I Need To Reapply for Social Security Retirement Benefits At 70?
Hi Larry, I will be 70 in July and will then be changing from spousal to my retirement benefits. I expect to get about $3,400.00. My wife, who was born in 1954, started her retirement benefits at 62. Her benefit is about $1,200. When I’m 70, will I have to reapply for my retirement benefit? also, when I’m 70 and my wife is 67-68, would it be better for her to switch to spousal till she is 70? Thanks, Pat
Hi Pat, Yes, you’ll need to file a new application to switch from spousal benefits to your own Social Security retirement benefits. If you turn 70 in July, you can submit your application as early as February.
Your wife wouldn’t be allowed to switch from her retirement benefits to spousal benefits. Once you start drawing your own Social Security retirement benefits, those benefits continue for life. A person can withdraw their application under certain circumstances, but only if they repay all of the benefits that have been paid to them and to any family members collecting benefits on their account.
If a person who is receiving their own benefits becomes eligible for a higher spousal or survivor benefit rate, they can continue to be paid their own benefits plus a partial or excess spousal or survivor benefit.
However, the only way that your wife could qualify for an additional spousal benefit when you start drawing your own benefits is if your primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than twice as much as your wife’s PIA, and that doesn’t sound likely given the benefit rates you mentioned in your question. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA).
Your wife could voluntarily suspend her benefits between her full retirement age (FRA) and age 70 in order to earn delayed retirement credits, but she couldn’t be paid spousal benefits while her own benefits are suspended. Best, Larry
If I Apply For Widow’s Benefits Early, Will It Negatively Affect How Much I Will Receive When I File For My Own Benefits?
Hi Larry, I am 57 and my husband died in 2018 at 55. If I retire and apply for widow’s benefits early at 60 or 62, will it negatively affect how much I will receive when I apply for my own retirement benefits, at 67 or 70? My 18 year old disabled son already receives survivor’s benefits on my deceased husband’s record. Thanks, Sally
Hi Sally, I’m sorry for your loss. If you start collecting widow’s benefits prior to full retirement age (FRA), it won’t have any adverse effect on the benefit rate that you could subsequently be paid on your own account.
Your best filing strategy could be either filing for reduced widow’s benefits early and then switching to your own record at 70, or filing for reduced retirement benefits on your own record early and then filing for unreduced widow’s benefits at full retirement age (FRA). Normally, you would want to start out drawing the lower benefit first and then switch to the higher record when it reaches its highest potential rate.
You may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to ensure your household receives the highest lifetime benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry
Is It Correct That Social Security Considers You To Become Age 70 In The Month Of Your Birthday?
Hi Larry, I am waiting until I turn 70 to claim my maximum retirement benefit. I will turn 70 in the middle of December. As I understand your answer to another, I should file my claim in December in order to make sure I get the full benefit rate. Do I have to wait until after my birthday or can I file on any day after December 1?
As I understood your response to a previous claimant, Social Security considers you to become 70 in the month of your birthday, correct? Also, as I understand a previous post, If I file in December, I will begin to receive benefits in January — is this correct? Thanks, Carl
Hi Carl, Yes, it’s correct that Social Security considers you to be 70 for the whole month, but you don’t have to wait until then to actually submit your application for your benefits. Social Security allows you to apply for benefits up to four months prior to the month that you want to start drawing your benefits, so if you want to claim your benefits in December, you can submit your application as early as August.
Your application will ask you which month that you want to claim benefits, and you would simply answer December. Social Security pays benefits a month behind though, so your first payment would then be due in January. Best, Larry