Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about how and when Social Security determines someone to have turned 62, filing for retirement benefits at FRA before later spousal benefits and retroactive retirement benefits before survivor’s benefits. 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.
In What Month Does Social Security Consider Me To Be 62?
Hi Larry, Social Security website says if your birthdate is on any day after the second day of the month, you are not that age for the entire month. You can start your benefits as of the following month. Your answer to a previous question says you can start your benefits in the month you turn the age you wish to initiate retirement benefits. Which is correct? Thanks, Chris
Hi Chris, With regard to Social Security retirement benefits, the only time when being of a certain age for an entire month is when a person turns age 62. The first month that you can collect retirement benefits is the first month that you are 62 for a whole month. Social Security counts people as reaching their next age on the day prior to their birthday, so a person born on November 2 1960 for example could claim retirement benefits as early as November 2022.
You can also claim retirement benefits any month after the month you turn 62, in which case your birthday is irrelevant when calculating your benefit rate unless you were born on the first day of a month. In that case, Social Security considers you to have reached your next age on last day of the prior month prior to your birthday.
So for example, if a person reaches full retirement age (FRA) on November 29 2022 and they claim retirement benefits on any day in November 2022, they will be paid their full unreduced retirement benefit rate. Best, Larry
Would It Make Sense For My Wife To Apply For Her Own Benefits Now?
Hi Larry, I’m 63 and my wife is 65+ and eligible for Social Security. Her payments if taken now will be small, ~1,100 per month and mine are estimated at ~$4,000 if I work to 70. We both work, though her income is variable as a consultant.
Would it make sense for her to apply now given the little increase from waiting until 70? I understand she could actually receive spousal benefits based upon my work history and would like to understand its likelihood and how to apply for this. Thanks, Ronald
Hi Ronald, I don’t know how close your wife is to her full retirement age (FRA). but yes, based on the amounts cited in your question it sounds like your wife might want to claim her retirement benefits effective no later than the month she reaches full retirement age (FRA).
When you apply for your retirement benefits, your wife can apply for an excess spousal benefit, which will then be calculated by subtracting her primary insurance amount (PIA) from 50% of your PIA. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA).
If your wife waited instead until 70 to start drawing her own benefits, then her eventual excess spousal rate would be calculated by subtracting her age 70 rate from 50% of your PIA. Therefore, if 50% of your PIA will be higher than your wife’s own rate even if she waited until 70 to start drawing, your wife’s combined benefit amount once she starts drawing an excess spousal benefit would be the same regardless of whether she had started drawing her own benefits at FRA or 70.
It sounds like you and your wife 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
If My Wife And I Both Wait Until Age 70 To Claim Our Benefits But If I Die Before Then, Could My Wife Claim Her Own Benefits Retroactively For Six Months And Then Start Widow’s Benefits?
Hi Larry, My wife and I are basically the same age and we both just reached FRA, her FRA retirement benefit is about $,1600 and mine is about $2,400. We do not plan to claim for either of us until 70. If I were to die say a year from now, could she file for retroactive benefits on her own record, collect six months payments and then file for her widow’s benefits and get whatever my monthly payment would be upon my death? Thanks, Arnold
Hi Arnold, Yes, since in the scenario you present your wife would be at least six months past her full retirement age (FRA) at the time of your death, she could file for six months of retroactive benefits on her own account and then claim widow’s benefits in your month of death.
And provided that you haven’t started drawing your benefits at the time of your death, your wife’s widow’s rate would be calculated based on the amount that you would have been paid if you had started drawing your benefits effective with your month of death. Best, Larry