By RUSSELL GLOOR
Social Security Advisor
Dear Rusty: My question is about the “restricted application for spousal benefits only” I saw referenced in an article. I will turn 66 in February and have applied for my “full retirement benefit” and will continue to work full time. My husband turned 66 this month and has not yet applied for his benefits. According to the Social Security paperwork sent to us, I will receive about $1900 a month and my husband, who is self-employed, would only receive $500 to $600. If my husband claimed “spousal benefits only” using the restricted application, would I still receive my $1900 and he would receive 50 percent of that for an estimated total of $2850? Doesn’t seem to make sense to me! As you can see, we must be in denial of our age and are not knowledgeable about Social Security!! Signed: Inquisitive Senior
Dear Inquisitive: Based on the amounts you quoted in your email (which I assume were recent estimates from the Social Security Administration), your husband should claim his own benefits this month and then claim his normal spousal benefit in February when your benefits start. Since your husband has already reached his full retirement age of 66, his spousal benefit will be the full 50 percent of the benefit you are entitled to when you reach your full retirement age in February.
Although your husband qualifies for and can submit a “restricted application for spousal benefits only” (as described in the article you read), there is little reason for him to do so because his own benefit, even if he delays claiming it until he is 70, will be less than his spousal benefit from your record. Instead, since his spousal benefit from you will be the highest amount he will ever be eligible for, he can just claim his own benefit first and then claim his regular spousal benefit to begin when your Social Security retirement benefit starts. Here’s why:
If your husband’s current benefit at his full retirement age (FRA) would be $600 and he’s not yet collecting, he could earn delayed retirement credits (DRCs) at a rate of 0.667 per month of delay (8 percent per year of delay). That will mean his own benefit would be 32 percent more at age 70 than he is now eligible for at his FRA, which means his maximum benefit on his own earnings record will be $792/month ($600 plus 32 percent).
The only reason to file the restricted application (for which he is eligible only because he was born before January 2, 1954) is to let his own benefit grow while he collects a spousal benefit, so he can switch to his own higher benefit later. But since his spousal benefit from you will be about $950 – more than the maximum benefit he can get from his own record at age 70 – his most prudent choice would be to simply claim his own benefit now and apply for his normal spousal benefit to start when your SS benefit starts in February. No need for him to file the restricted application because his own benefit will never be higher than his spousal benefit. And just for complete clarity, your husband collecting his spousal benefit from you will not affect your own Social Security retirement benefit in any way.
The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this article are the viewpoints of the Association of Mature American Citizens Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff. To submit a question, contact the Foundation at firstname.lastname@example.org.