Economic Security Planning, Inc.
Today’s column addresses questions about how survivor’s benefits are calculated, eligibility for spousal benefits, confusing filing a restricted application with the mutually exclusive act of filing for and suspending retirement benefits, Medicare premiums and relocating outside the US. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, the company that markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.
See more Ask Larry answers here.
Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.
Will My Wife’s Social Security Widow’s Benefit Be Higher If I Wait Past FRA To File?
Hi Larry, If I pass away before her, would my wife receive a higher Social Security’s widow’s benefit if I wait past my FRA of 66 to collect or are the benefits capped at my FRA. Thanks, James
Hi James, Yes, assuming that your benefit rate is higher than your wife’s own benefit rate. If you wait past full retirement age (FRA) to start drawing your Social Security retirement benefits, your wife’s widow’s benefit rate would be based on your full benefit rate including any delayed retirement credits (DRC)s you earn by waiting. So for example, if you wait until 70 to start drawing your Social Security retirement benefits and you then die prior to your wife, as a widow she would get the higher of a) her own benefit rate or b) your full age 70 rate assuming that she’s at least FRA when she claims widow’s benefits. Best, Larry
Would I Qualify To Get Half Of My Spouse’s Social Security While Letting My Own Benefit Rate Grow Until Age 70?
Hi Larry, I was born in 1953 and turned 66 in December. I would like to file a restricted application and receive my Social Security spousal benefit while letting my retirement benefit grow. My husband was born in May of 1954, is still working and has not claimed any Social Security benefit. Thanks, Maria
Hi Maria, You could potentially claim spousal benefits at full retirement age (FRA) or later while letting your retirement benefit rate grow until 70, but you couldn’t qualify for spousal benefits unless and until your husband files for and starts drawing his Social Security retirement or disability benefits. You and your husband can use my company’s two tools — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to compare your various filing options in order to determine your best strategy. Best, Larry
Can I File A Restricted Application And Only Receive Benefits For My Wife And Son?
Hi Larry, I’m 62, my wife is 53 and I have a son in high school who is 15. Can I file a restricted application and only receive benefits for my wife and son leaving my benefits alone. Thanks, Amit
Hi Amit, The short answer is no. It looks like you’re confused about what it means to file a restricted application and are conflating it with the separate and mutually exclusive act of filing for and suspending your Social Security retirement benefits. You can’t voluntarily suspend benefits prior to your full retirement age (FRA), and even if you did so, your wife and child couldn’t draw benefits from your record while your benefits are suspended.
The only way that your wife and child could receive benefits on your account is if you’re deceased or drawing your retirement benefits. And if you file for your benefits prior to FRA, both your benefits and your wife and child’s benefits could be subject to full or partial withholding if you continue working and earn more than the exempt amount allowed under Social Security’s earnings test. Furthermore, your benefit rate would be reduced for age for any months that you’re paid benefits prior to FRA. Best, Larry
Is It True That I Can’t Get Spousal Benefits Because My Part B Premium Amount Is Too High?
Hi Larry, My wife and I both were born before 1/1/54. She filed for retirement benefits in 2/18, when she was 66. I filed a restricted application in 3/18 when I was 66 for a spousal benefit, leaving my retirement benefit to grow until I turn 70. My wife was a teacher for most of her life and her did not contribute much to Social Security. At first, Social Security was fine with this, but then then told me I can’t have it because my Part B Premium exceeded the spousal benefit I would be receiving. Is this true? Thanks, Stan
Hi Stan, That’s not true. Your Part B Medicare premium amount would have nothing to do with whether or not you’re eligible for spousal benefits. However, if your Part B premium amount is higher than your spousal benefit, then your entire spousal benefit would be applied to your monthly Part B premium, with nothing left over to be paid to you. Still though, it would obviously be better to claim the spousal benefit and have that amount credited toward your Part B premium as opposed to not filing for spousal benefits and paying your entire premium out of pocket.
You say that you did file a restricted application for spousal benefits, so I assume that your spousal benefits are in fact being credited toward your Part B premiums. If you don’t think that’s happening, you should probably check with Social Security to find out what’s going on. Best, Larry
Will My Benefit Amount Change If I Relocate To Puerto Rico Or A Foreign Country?
Hi Larry, I was born in Puerto Rico, leaving when I was six. My entire work and tax paying history has been on the US mainland. How will my benefit be calculated and awarded if I continue to reside on the mainland once I have claimed my retirement benefit? Does the benefit amount change if I relocate to Puerto Rico, or any other country during retirement? Thanks, Hernán
Hi Hernán, Puerto Rico is a US territory, so residing there would be no different than living in one of the 50 United States as far as Social Security rules are concerned. Residing in a foreign country wouldn’t reduce your benefit rate, and as a US citizen, you can draw your benefits in the vast majority of foreign countries. There are a few countries, however, where Social Security benefits can’t be paid, such as Cuba and North Korea. And, there are additional countries where you can’t receive Social Security auxiliary or survivor benefits unless you meet certain conditions. Best, Larry