Can my spouse take my Social Security benefits?

Photo: pixabay.com

Q. My spouse has delayed putting in for Social Security benefits until she reaches maximum amount. Can she retire now and get my Social Security benefits, which are a higher amount than hers. I haven’t started taking benefits yet.
— Still working

A. No, she can’t. At least not yet.

There have been changes made to spousal benefits in recent years based on the year you were born.

The spousal benefit allows a wife or husband to collect up to 50 percent of what the other spouse’s Social Security benefit would be at full retirement age (FRA) as long as that spouse has already filed, said Jerry Lynch, a certified financial planner with JFL Total Wealth Management in Boonton.

But you haven’t filed yet. That means your spouse would take her benefit, and when you start taking your benefit, she would get the higher of her benefit or 50 percent of yours, he said. It’s called the “deemed filing” rule.

“When you file for benefits, you’re deemed to be filing for all benefits due to you, including your own benefit, and you’ll automatically get the highest amount,” he said.

But if you were born before Jan. 2, 1954, you were grandfathered into the old system which allows a spouse to take a spousal benefit while allowing their personal benefit to grow up to age 70, Lynch said.

That’s called a “restricted application.”

If you were born after that date, you were not grandfathered, Lynch said. So when you file for benefits, you get the higher of either your personal benefit or the spousal benefit, Lynch said.

“Social Security is a tremendous benefit and before someone pulls the trigger and starts collecting, they really need to take some time and think about it,” Lynch said. “Generally the break even point if you take your benefit at 62, 66 or 70 is age 78.”

Because average life expectancy is in the mid 80s, Lynch said, most people benefit from taking benefits at a later time.

And remember: The decision is not only about you. It is also about your spouse, he said.

Take a look at Social Security’s calculators to help you make the right decision for you.

Email your questions to moc.p1568990609leHye1568990609noMJN1568990609@ksA1568990609.

This story was originally published on Sept. 10, 2019.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.