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Ask Stephanie O Joy, Esq Your Own Question
Stephanie O Joy, Esq
Stephanie O Joy, Esq, Soc. Sec. Attorney
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 13506
Experience:  19+ years legal exp. - 10+ years owning/operating her own SSD Law practice.
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I have recently learned that I can collect spousal benefits

Customer Question

I have recently learned that I can collect spousal benefits on my ex-husband. I have all the qualifiers and documents. Married more then 10 yrs, marriage certificate,divorce papers, single.
He retired last year and says he's collecting a little over $2200. a/m from SS. if I were to collect half, being $1100.
I am 63. Still work. My benefits at full retirement, age 66 will be about $1400. a/m.
if I have my information right I can apply for this and state that I want to suspend my benefits and restrict to spousal benefits.
my questions are what age to restrict the benefits to. The only information I can find says I have to suspend until age 70...but what if I want to retire at age 66 or sooner??
Is the earlier retirement going to subject me to the "earning test" in which I will be panelized and have to repay $1 for every $2 that I collected??
Can I really do this??
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Social Security
Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 year ago.

Good evening, with regard to your post:

"I have recently learned that I can collect spousal benefits on my ex-husband. I have all the qualifiers and documents. Married more then 10 yrs, marriage certificate,divorce papers, single. ------ Super.

"He retired last year and says he's collecting "a little over $2200. a/m from SS. if I were to collect half, being $1100. --------- You can only get 50% of his Primary Insurance Amount if you wait til you are of full retirement age.

"I am 63. Still work. My benefits at full retirement, age 66 will be about $1400. a/m. ------- OK. Your own benefit is greater than spousal, so SSA mandates that when you apply you get the larger of the two you are eligible for, and you don't have a choice, if you are under your full retirement age (FRA).

"if I have my information right I can apply for this and state that I want to suspend my benefits and restrict to spousal benefits. ----- No, you can not pick, nor can you suspend your benefits, until you are at least FRA.

"my questions are what age to restrict the benefits to. -------- You can start at your FRA. At that time, you can file a "restricted application for spousal ONLY". Then you can get 50% of his PIA and keep collecting it til 70, at which time you switch to your own benefit which will have increased to 32% HIGHER than your PIA. So 32% X 1400 = 448. Add that to the 1400 and you'll get 1848/mo. from age 70 and onward (plus COLA increases).

"The only information I can find says I have to suspend until age 70...------- No, you don't have to suspend at all - rather, you will be filing a "restricted spousal benefit application" And, you COULD switch to your own before 70, but you lose that extra 8% for every year you don't wait after age 66+.

".... but what if I want to retire at age 66 or sooner?? ----------- You can retire anytime you want, but suffer the reduced amounts and the situation noted above. If maximizing monthly benefit it your ultimate goal. I'd keep working collect spousal at 66 and my own at 70. Anything earlier than FRA hurts both benefits significantly.

"Is the earlier retirement going to subject me to the "earning test" in which I will be panelized and have to repay $1 for every $2 that I collected?? ------- Yes. That too. But it really isn't a penalty, it is just a reversal of collecting early, so each month you didn't get to keep or collect early, will result in NOT getting the reduction to your benefit of taking early. The bigger issue is that you can't grow it to age 70 if you take it early.

"Can I really do this?? ------- The world is your oyster :)

Expert:  Stephanie O Joy, Esq replied 1 year ago.

I hope this helps! My goal is to provide you with excellent and accurate service – if you feel you have gotten anything less, please reply back, I am happy to address follow-up questions.

Kindly rate me "excellent" when you are done. I look forward to assisting you in the future, should you have legal questions. Be sure to start future posts with "To Stephanie O Joy Esq., ONLY" if you want me to specifically answer it.

Sincerely, ***** ***** Joy, Esq.

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