2019 marks the last year people can take advantage of a Social Security rule that will soon be phased out. That rule is called filing a restricted application to receive spousal benefits, and was eliminated, except for some older Americans, in 2015 when Social Security was revised. If you are a baby boomer turning full retirement age this year, and your spouse is already receiving benefits, or soon will be, this is something you should certainly look into.
Filing a restricted application allows one to file for spousal benefits only, which results in the applicant receiving some benefits at the time of filing (one-half of their spouse’s benefit), while leaving their own benefits to grow until age 70.
To qualify, a person must have been born prior to 1954, meaning they will have reached the full retirement age of 66 at some point in 2019.
Let’s say you are turning 66 this year and qualify for a benefit amount of $2,000 per month. Your spouse is 71 and has already started to receive benefits of $2,500 per month. If you file a restricted application now, you will receive $1,250 per month in spousal benefits for the next four years, in addition to the $2,500 per month your spouse is already receiving, bringing your total household monthly social security income to $3,750 per month. Once you turn age 70, you can then switch to receiving your own benefit, which will have grown to $2,720 per month, bringing your total household monthly income to $5,220.
This is just one example of how it can work, and of course, there are many different scenarios of how it can play out. For that reason, if you are looking into this kind of social security strategy, or creating a plan for making your claim(s) in general, it is imperative that you thoroughly research your options, or get some help from a financial advisor. There are some on-line tools for optimizing your benefit claims, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) can also help you evaluate your options, either on-line, in-person or on the phone. Despite the fact that the SSA is generally steering people to use their on-line help tools, it is always advisable to make an in-person appointment with them to go over your specific situation before making any final decisions.
And if you are part of the ‘Class of 2019’, making you among the last of the baby boomers to qualify for the restricted application, it is definitely worth looking into, as it might just result in a valuable boost in social security benefits for you and your family.