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Ask Larry: Do I Get Credits For Waiting Until 67 To File For Social Security Retirement Benefits?

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Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about early filing reductions and delayed retirement credits, filing with a spouse and a disabled child and how survivor’s benefits are calculated. 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.

Do I Get Credits For Waiting Until 67 To File For Social Security Retirement Benefits?

Hi Larry, I turned 67 in October and filed for my retirement benefit in January 2022. Do I get and credits for waiting two years past 65? I’ve heard of getting six months worth of back benefits but don’t know how to get it. Thanks, Steve

Hi Steve, Since you were apparently born in 1954, your full retirement age (FRA) for Social Security retirement benefits was the month you turned 66. If you had started drawing your benefits at 65, your benefit rate would have been reduced for age. Your rate won’t be reduced for age since you didn’t start drawing early, plus you earned delayed retirement credits (DRC) for each month that you didn’t collect benefits between 66 and 70. DRCs increase your FRA rate by 2/3rds of 1% per month, or 8% per year.

When you applied for benefits you could have started your benefits up to six months prior to the month that you apply, but if you chose to get paid for retroactive months, you would have lost the DRCs that you earned for those months. In other words, the earlier you elect to start drawing your benefits prior to 70, the lower your monthly rate will be.

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 Best For Me To Wait Until FRA?

Hi Larry, I am 65 years and currently not working. I plan to wait until FRA at 66 and four months to file. My wife is 63 and eligible to file under her own account if necessary. Our 22 year old son with Down’s syndrome has been disabled since birth. My son receives an SSI benefit.

Is it best for me to wait until FRA? Can my wife file at the same time as I at 64 under her own account or as spouse? Can we file all three applications at the same time? Are we subject to family maximum benefit rules? Thanks, Julian

Hi Julian, I can’t tell you when the best time to file would be because too many factors are involved. I can tell you that you and your wife and son can all file for benefits simultaneously, and the family maximum benefit (FMB) that can be claimed on a single record will apply. You won’t all be able to file online though, so if you choose that option, your son at least will need to apply by phone with a Social Security representative.

If you and your wife both apply for benefits based on your individual earnings histories, then your and your wife’s FMBs can likely be combined to free up more total benefits to be paid to your family. However, it might initially be more beneficial for one of you to apply for your own benefits and have the other apply just for child in care spousal benefits. My company’s software can help you decide that.

Another thing that I can tell you is that if and when your son qualifies for childhood disability benefits (CDBs), formerly called disabled adult child’s (DAC) benefits, his Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments will be offset more or less dollar for dollar by the amount of his DAC benefit. Best, Larry

What Percentage Of My Benefit Would My Wife Receive If I Die Before Her?

Hi Larry, I am 70, drawing my Social Security retirement benefit and still working. My wife is 62 and has not worked outside the home in our 39 years of marriage. If I die, what percentage of my benefit does she get? Thanks, Alan

Hi Alan, The answer depends the age you started drawing your benefits and at what age your wife starts drawing widow’s benefits. If she’s at least full retirement age (FRA) when she starts drawing widow’s benefits, her benefit rate would be no less than 100% of your benefit rate. Her rate could even be somewhat higher than your rate if you started drawing your benefits at age 62.

But if your wife starts drawing widow’s benefits prior to FRA, then her benefit rate would be subject to a reduction for age. How much if any that would reduce her actual benefit rate would depend on when you started drawing your benefits and your wife’s age at the time she starts drawing widow’s benefits.

For example, if you started drawing your benefits at FRA or later and if your wife started drawing widow’s benefits at age 62, her benefit rate would be roughly 80% of your monthly amount. Best, Larry

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