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Should My Wife Take Early Spousal Before Delayed Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about taking spousal benefits early before delayed retirement benefits, whether conversion to childhood disability benefits is automatic and switching to spousal benefits after taking early retirement benefits. 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.

Should My Wife Take Early Spousal Before Delayed Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Hi Larry, I’ve been told my plan isn’t possible given Social Security’s rules but I’d like to run it by you to see if it might be okay.

I’m 50 and my wife is 43. We have a 5 year old child. My FRA is 67, at which point she will be 60. I would like I to delay filing for my Social Security retirement until 72, which I believe is the way to let it max out.

At that point, she will be 65, two years short FRA. Could she file for early spousal benefits, delay filing against her own record until 72 and then switch over to that to get the max amount? I’d like for both of us to retire at 60, which means my wife would be working for seven years after I retire. Thanks, Don

Hi Don, First of all, you can only accumulate delayed retirement credits (DRCs) up until the month you turn 70. So you wouldn’t want to wait past the month you turn 70 to claim your Social Security retirement benefits.

The only way that your wife could file for spousal benefits without claiming her own benefits at the same time is if she has a child in her care who is eligible for benefits on your account and who is either under 16 or is disabled.

Otherwise, your wife would be deemed to be filing for both spousal benefits and her own Social Security retirement benefits when she applies for either benefit. She’d then be paid essentially only the higher of the two benefit rates, and her benefit rate would be reduced for age if she starts drawing prior to her full retirement age (FRA).

You and your wife 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

Will My Daughter Automatically Start Getting CDB Benefits If Her Father Listed Her On His Application?

Hi Larry, I have a 32 year old adult disabled daughter on both SSI and SSDI based on her own work record. She earned six credits before 24 which qualified her to collect SSDI on her own work record in addition to collecting SSI. During the time she worked, she never reached SGA (Substantial Gainful Activity).

Her father just filed for retirement benefits and as a result our daughter will be entitled to Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) off of his work record. She will no longer receive SSI and will be dually entitled receiving her full SSDI benefit on her work record and partial CDB benefit on her father’s work record with the total benefit the same amount as the full CDB benefit which is the higher of the two.

Will this switch over in benefits happen automatically as a result of her father listing our daughter on his retirement application or is it also necessary to file an application for CDB benefits? Thanks, Sharon

Hi Sharon, Your daughter can’t become entitled to Childhood Disability Benefits (CDB) without filing an application. Listing a child on an a parent’s application for benefits only establishes a protective filing date for the child, it is not an actual application for benefits.

Social Security usually contacts spouses and children who are listed on a worker’s application if they appear to be eligible for benefits. If your daughter doesn’t hear from Social Security soon then it sounds like she should probably call them to initiate filing an application for CDB benefits. Best, Larry

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