Friday, May 2, 2008

Voluntary Suspension & Spouse Benefits

If the worker properly applies for Social Security benefits but "files and suspends" to age 70, the worker is therefore nevertheless "entitled." Can the spouse (at her FRE or at any other time before the worker turns 70) then file for a spousal benefit, even though the worker is not at that time receiving cash benefits? Assume the spouse has not applied for benefits based on her own record, and that if she did the benefit would be low, say 20% of the worker's benefit? Thanks.

Sam from DC

A spouse can receive benefits on the worker's account even if the worker suspends benefits to collect the Delayed Retirement Credits at age 70. Under this suspension procedure, only the worker's benefits can be suspended, not any of the beneficiaries on the account. There is no advantage for them anyway, because it is only if the worker's benefits are not paid that the Delayed Retirement Credit applies. If the spouse's benefits are only 20% of the worker's, then the benefit payment will never be greater than the spouse's benefit rate of 50%, or even at the maximum reduced spouse rate (35%) if she is under Full Retirement Age.

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