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Today’s question comes from Kimmy:
“I was born in 1953. I received my first Social Security payment in March 2019 for $1,118. My husband was born in 1954. He also claimed his Social Security benefits in February 2019, when he turned 65. His benefit is $2,472. Had he waited until his full retirement age to claim his benefit, he would have received $2,650.
Can I stop taking my own benefits and get a spousal benefit on his record?”
A ‘once in a lifetime’ opportunity
Kimmy, there are a couple of important issues here.
First, you are entitled to receive a spousal supplement that would top off your own retirement benefit. The supplement would bring your total benefit up to half of his full retirement age (FRA) benefit, or $1,325 (assuming you claimed at your FRA).
So, you should already be receiving an additional $207, increasing your $1,118 to $1,325. If you do nothing else, you should contact the Social Security Administration and request your spousal supplement. You can get a retroactive payment to cover the months that you missed the supplement. At a minimum, you can get a retroactive payment for up to six months.
Second, you do have another option: You can request a “do-over,” since you claimed within the past 12 months. You will need SSA Form 521, “Request for Withdrawal of Application,” for this request.
Keep in mind that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Since you were born prior to 1954, you can claim a spousal benefit while letting your own benefit grow up to age 70.
If you follow this approach, there is a downside: You would need to pay back the benefits you have received so far. Then, you can claim spousal benefits only, requesting a retroactive payment for up to six months, or whenever you reached your FRA.
Under this option, you would receive $1,325 a month until you turn 70, and then you would switch to your own benefit. Due to delayed retirement credits, your own benefit will have grown by 32%, or to $1,476 from $1,118.
Kimmy, your situation provides a good example of why those getting ready to claim Social Security benefits should seek some professional guidance. The Social Security rules can be confusing, so a little inexpensive help can go a long way toward helping you make the best decision for you and your husband.
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The questions I’m likeliest to answer are those that will interest other readers. So, it’s better not to ask for super-specific advice that applies only to you.
I hold a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and taught economics at the University of Delaware for many years. I now do the same at Gallaudet University.
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Disclaimer: We strive to provide accurate information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that we are not offering legal, accounting, investment or other professional advice or services, and that the SSA alone makes all final determinations on your eligibility for benefits and the benefit amounts. Our advice on claiming strategies does not comprise a comprehensive financial plan. You should consult with your financial adviser regarding your individual situation.