Your Social Security Advisor

Deemed Filing & 50% of Spouse’s Benefit – Ask Rusty

social security benefits benefitDear Rusty:  I would like to know more about spousal benefits allowing a husband or wife to receive up to 50 percent of a spouse’s Social Security benefits.  I believe it is called spousal deeming of Social Security benefits, and I’m wondering if this is something we can take advantage of.  My wife, who is 64, has not retired yet, and I retired in June at the age of 66.  Thank you for your time.  I hope you can clarify whether or not this is something relative to us.  Signed:  Wondering

Dear Wondering:  From your question I assume you are referring to your wife possibly receiving up to 50% of your current Social Security benefit.

The “deeming” you refer to is called “deemed filing” by Social Security and it refers to when a person files for benefits and is also entitled to spousal benefits, they are “deemed” to have filed for benefits on both their own record and their spouse’s record.  When your wife files, Social Security will calculate the benefit she is entitled to on her own work record, and then what she is entitled to as your spouse, and she will receive whichever benefit is higher.

You are correct that your wife can receive up to 50% of your benefit, but she will only get the full 50% if she has reached what Social Security considers her “Full Retirement Age” (or “FRA”, which for her is 66).  If she files before that, her benefit amount will be reduced to something less than 50% of yours, depending upon how many months before her FRA she files.  Since you retired at your FRA of 66, you are receiving 100% of the benefit you are entitled to.  Since your wife’s 65th birthday is approaching in February, if she chooses to retire then she would get 45.8 % of your full benefit instead of 50%.  If she chooses instead to retire in December of 2016, she would get 45.1% of your full benefit, and if she chooses to wait until after February the percentage of your benefit she will receive will increase monthly until she reaches age 66 when it will be the full 50%.

Please note that filing early has consequences in that once your wife files, her benefits will be at the reduced level permanently; they do not increase at her full retirement age.  This not meant to discourage her from filing early if financially necessary, but rather just to make you aware.  Note also that this same scenario would apply if the wife was the higher wage-earner and it was the husband seeking 50% of the wife’s Social Security benefit.
While the above answers your question about “spousal deeming”, there is another strategy your wife may want to pursue to maximize her own benefits.  Since your wife attained age 62 prior to the end of 2015, if she waits until age 66 to file she would be entitled to file a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits Only.  Doing this would mean she could avoid the new deemed filing rules that were enacted in 2015, apply for spousal benefits only, and allow her own benefit to grow.  By doing this her benefit amount on her own work record would increase by about 8% for each year after she became 66, until age 70 when it would reach a maximum of 132% of her benefit at age 66.  She could then switch from spousal benefits to increased benefits on her own work record at any time it becomes financially prudent to do that.

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 AMAC Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation’s Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services. The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues. To submit a request, contact the Foundation at [email protected].

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Loretta
4 years ago

This information is exactly what I was looking for and answered my questions very well. Thank you so much for offering this service to some very complicated situations and those of us who need answers!

John
4 years ago

OK, got a new spin from SS office. I am 65 and was planning to take Spousal Benefit via a Restricted Application in 2018. Since I was 62 in 2014 before the new law in kicked in 2015 I thought I could file a Restricted Application at 66 next year (2018) and have 50% of the FRA of spousal benefit as long as she has applied and is receiving her SS benefit. She would be 64 at the time she retires in 2018. I was told – no you cannot apply for a Restricted Application because she was not 62 by the December 2015 and she turned 62 in October 2016. So she would not only would she have no choice to use the Restricted Application (which I understand) but being 62 in 2016 also disqualifies me from using a Restricted application strategy. Is this correct?

Lloyd
4 years ago

Rusty – I took SS at the age of 62 and I got slapped with the Windfall Government Pension Offset. My wife will take SS at full age 66. I have suggested to her to wait until she is 70 to increase her SS. The SS Office informed us that that was a good choice and at that time if I pass she can apply for SS under my benefits and the Windfall Gov Pension Offset would not effect the amount she would receive. Sometime I am not sure we are getting the correct guidance from SS.
Since my wife attained age 62 prior to the end of 2015, if she waits until age 66 to file she would be entitled to file a Restricted Application for Spousal Benefits Only. By doing this her benefit amount on her own work record would increase by about 8% for each year after she became 66, until age 70 when it would reach a maximum of 132% of her benefit at age 66. She could then switch from spousal benefits to increased benefits on her own work record at any time it becomes financially prudent to do that. Any problems with our plan as things are now. Lloyd

Alan
4 years ago

Hello Rusty, I am turning 66 in August of this year and intend to file for my SS benefits at that time. I haven’t filed my 2016 tax return because I got an extension until October. How might this affect my filing for SS benefits in August?

Alan
4 years ago

Hello Rusty. My wife worked for the City of Grapevine, TX for 8 years. Their retirement plan is through the Texas Municipal Retirement System (TMRS) instead of the SS system. She also worked in the SS system prior to the TMRS system. Is she entitled to receive benefits from both?

Katharine Brown
4 years ago

HUH??? No WONDER everyone is confused! Could we POSSIBLY make this more convoluted???

Judy
4 years ago

Please note if either person worked paying S and into a pension plan, ss takes the pension plan income into consideration and decreases monthly payment or decide that you are not entitled to anything including a %of the spouses S.

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Judy

Judy, what you describe is only true if one or the other spouse was a public service employee that didn’t contribute to Social Security, making either the Windfall Elimination Provision or the Government Pension Offset provision apply. Neither was the case with this questioner.

ONTIME
4 years ago

I have always considered the rules SS operate by confused and antiquated, you and your spouse both spent the required time fulfilling your SS donation requirements in order to begin your withdrawal and if the larger amount survives the the amount paid in by the lesser is reabsorbed back into the SS and only the larger amount is considered……would you not think that no matter the death of either spouse that one half of the lesser amount would be added to the surviving spouse, whose money is this paid to the SS in good faith????…SS rules are convoluted, complex and not in your best interest…..

Robert Downes
4 years ago

Hey Rusty, one point I didn’t read in your excellent explanation is, that for a spouse to be eligible for “Spousal Benefits” they must have been married {to each other] for 10 or more years!
Bob Downes

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Robert Downes

Hi Bob. What you say is true for ex-spouses, but not for current spouses. If you’d like more detail please email me at [email protected] or call us at 1-888-759-2622 to speak with one of our certified advisors.

John P. Barker III
4 years ago

Who enacted this gobbling goop a PhD!, Yes makes perfect sense to me! NOT!

Michael C. Hogan, Sr
4 years ago

Please clarify my situation – Both my wife and I did not file for SS benefit prior to age 65, since we were still working past our 65 Birthdays. I am currently nearing my 86th birthday(8/21/17) and my wife will be 85 on 12/4/17. My monthly benefit is larger than my wife’s. If I pre-decease my wife, how would her benefit payment be calculated?

Wendy
4 years ago

You can get answers to this question by searching the SSA.gov site. I found they had pretty clear answers there. https://www.ssa.gov/planners/survivors/ifyou5.html

Rusty
4 years ago

Michael, if your benefit is larger and you pre-decease your wife, she will get 100% of the benefit amount you were receiving. If you need more information, please email us at [email protected].

JerryC
4 years ago

She would draw your larger amount and lose what she currently draws.

Patricia
4 years ago

In order to file for restricted benefits at 66 must my spouse have filed for his benefits? We are both 64, i am still working but my spouse has been out of work for 2 years. If unable to get a job part time or full we may need his SS , hopefully we can wait until he is 66.

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Patricia

Patricia, yes in order for you to file a restricted application for spousal benefits only, your husband must already be collecting, you must be at your full retirement age and must have reached 62 by January 1, 2016. If you need more information please email us at [email protected] or call us at 1-888-750-2622.

Gratefulme
4 years ago

I just get to the point of thinking I understand this stuff and along comes a bunch of new ‘partial’ information’ to confuse me all over, so I am hoping someone can enlighten me.
Here goes:

I have been a widow since I was 48; my husband and I worked in professions throughout our adult lives(since 16 y/o). He didn’t live long enough to collect any of his SS benefits. My youngest son who was still in high school, collected some survivor benefits until he became 18 y/o. I continued to work until several years ago(about 55 y/o) in my profession then became semi-retired earning smaller amounts/year than before. My understanding is that I can file for my husband’s SS when I become 60 y/o leaving my SS alone until maximum growth age(I thought this was 72, but not sure), and then switch to mine if, at that time, it is higher. Is this correct? I would greatly appreciate accurate and wise advice on this subject. Thank You!

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Gratefulme

Gratefulme, your question needs a bit more detail than I’m able to provide in this forum. Please email your question to my attention at [email protected], or call us at 1-888-750-2622 to speak to one of our certified Advisors. Your understanding is only partially correct.

wendy
4 years ago

I would suggest going to this site and seriously considering buying their product. We did, and although we had already made some choices that couldn’t be undone, it reassured us we hadn’t screwed up too badly and helped us with other choices we needed to make as my husband reached retirement age. If your wife retires at full retirement age, she should get her full retirement amount. If you retired early, your amount (assuming she is the higher earner) would be slightly less than it would have been, had you waited to full retirement age. In my case, it amounted to about $40 a month. Taking retirement early gave me back some of that, and we have an adult disabled child who also became eligible for benefits, once I retired. It’s very complicated and laws change often. The group mentioned above, and linked to below, issues updates as things change. We found their product well worth the investment. https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/when-should-i-take-social-security-maximize-my-benefits

Bob
4 years ago

Since I retired at age 62 and would like to receive half of my wife’s benefits, how much of her benefit would she still receive? I’m a little uncertain about this.

Wendy
4 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Your wife will get 100% of the benefit she is entitled to when she retires at full retirement age. You are not taking out of her benefits. If you are getting your own benefits early, you will get an amount, somewhat reduced from what you would have received if you waited to full retirement age. And that smaller amount will continue when you go onto benefits under her earnings. The way I understand it, the money you receive will equal what you would have received under the higher earner minus what you lost by retiring early. So if you had waited to retire to full retirement age, you would be entitled to 50% of what the higher earner of the two of you would receive, but because you retired early, that decision stays with you even when you shift over to receiving based on her earnings. Does that make sense? If anyone else is collecting based on her earnings (like an adult disabled child) they only ever pay out a max of “up to” 180% of the individual’s benefit. So if you had three disabled adult children who qualified, you and the children would split up to 80% of what she would get. She gets 100% when she retires, unless she works past retirement age, in which case her income would be increased by 8% per year until she hits 70. Your income and the any children receiving, will not increase except for cost of living adjustments.

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Bob

Bob, any spousal benefits you collect on your wife’s work record would not affect her benefits at all. If you need more information please email us at [email protected].

wendy
4 years ago

This information is out of date. Changes have been made. Information from 2015 and 2016 may not reflect the rules for 2017.

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  wendy

No Wendy, the rules haven’t changed since the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 was passed. Info presented is still valid.

Rich from TX
4 years ago

Can anybody state with any certainty if a spouse who filed early (at 62) on own work record can re-file for spousal benefit after reaching FRA (66) and spouse having filed after FRA? Probably some kind of payback of the early benefits received? The article seems to be silent about that particular situation.

wendy
4 years ago
Reply to  Rich from TX

Once you have filed early, you are locked in at your lower rate. Your spouses benefits are added to your lesser amount, but will never bump up to the highest level you could have received if you had not filed early, regardless of when your spouse files.

Rich
4 years ago
Reply to  wendy

Thanks, Wendy. That’s what we figured, but it seemed the article left a door slightly ajar. We’ll be plenty happy if SocSec doesn’t cut the benefit, the way the fiscal environment in DC is these days. Yay, Rah, Go AMAC!

karen
4 years ago
Reply to  wendy

If you file early you can get a “do-over”. You must pay back everything Social Security has paid to you so far, then refile to receive the higher payment.

Walter
4 years ago
Reply to  karen

Can anyone verify if karen’s comment is correct? My spouse and I both filed at age 62, and have been regretting it for years now. We’re ages 75 and 73 .

Rusty
4 years ago
Reply to  Walter

Sorry Walter, but the do-over option is only available within 1 year of initially filing.

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