1. Can I collect Social Security on my spouse’s record?

Yes. You may be able to do this in the form of spousal benefits, or as survivor benefits if you are a widow or widower.

Depending on your age upon claiming, spousal benefits can range from 32.5 percent to 50 percent of your husband’s or wife’s primary insurance amount (the retirement benefit to which he or she is entitled at full retirement age, or FRA). Regardless of the amount of the spousal benefit, it does not affect the amount of your mate’s retirement payment.

You qualify for spousal benefits if:

. Your spouse is already collecting retirement benefits.
. You have been married for at least a year.
. You are at least 62 (unless you are caring for a child who is under 16 or disabled, in which case the age rule does not apply).

You can collect benefits on a spouse’s work record regardless of whether you also worked. If your own retirement benefit is lower than your spousal benefit, Social Security will pay you the higher amount.

To qualify for survivor benefits, you must have been:

. Married to the deceased for at least nine months (unless the death is accidental or occurs in the line of military duty, in which case there is no minimum time period).

. At least age 60, unless you are disabled (then it’s 50) or caring for a child of the deceased who is under 16 or disabled (no age minimum).

In most cases, survivor benefits are based on the benefit amount the late spouse was receiving, or was eligible to receive, when he or she died.

How much of that amount you are entitled to depend on the age when you file. The proportion rises from 71.5 percent if you claim survivor benefits at 60 (50 if disabled) to 100 percent if you wait until your full retirement age (which is currently 66 but is gradually rising to 67). If the survivor benefit is based on your caring for a child, you receive 75 percent of the deceased’s benefit, regardless of your own age when you file.

Keep in mind

. Your spousal benefit is not affected by the age at which your husband or wife claimed Social Security benefits. It will always be based on your mate’s primary insurance amount.

. With survivor benefits, if your late spouse boosted his or her Social Security payment by waiting past FRA to file, your survivor benefit would also increase.

. Your spousal or survivor benefits may be reduced, however, if you are under full retirement age and continue to work.
Social Security is phasing in the FRA increase differently for different types of benefits. For retirement and spousal benefits, the full retirement age will reach 67 for people born in 1960 and after. For survivor benefits, it’s 1962 and after.

2. Can I collect spousal benefit and wait until I am 70 to collect my own Social Security?

Only if:

. You were born before Jan. 2, 1954.
. You have reached your full retirement age.
. Your spouse is collecting his or her own Social Security retirement benefit.

This makes you eligible to file a “restricted application,” which allows you to collect a spousal benefit while delaying benefits on your own earnings record. To do so, you should state in the remarks section of the application form that you wish to exclude your retirement benefit from the scope of your Social Security claim.

Under a law Congress passed in 2015, people born after Jan. 1, 1954, cannot file a restricted application, regardless of how old they are when they file for benefits. They are covered by what Social Security calls “deemed filing.” When they claim retirement benefits, they are also deemed to be claiming any spousal benefits they are entitled to, except under narrow circumstances.

Keep in mind

If you were born after Jan. 1, 1954, there are only two exceptions to the deemed-filing rule. It does not apply if you receive spousal benefits because you are caring for a child who is under 16 or disabled, or if you get spousal benefits and are also entitled to Social Security disability payments.

3. Is the Social Security retirement age going up?

Yes. It has already increased from 65 to 66 and will be going to 67. These changes were mandated by Congress in 1983 as part of a law that strengthened Social Security’s finances. Congress cited improvements in the health of older people and increases in life expectancy as reasons for raising the retirement age.

Currently, 66 is the full retirement age for people born between 1943 and 1954. Starting with people born in 1955, it will inch upward, rather than jumping right to 67. A person born in 1955 will have to be 66 and 2 months to be considered at full retirement age, someone born in 1956 will have to be 66 and 4 months, and so on. A person born in 1960 or later will reach full retirement age at 67.

Raising the age further is one of many possible changes to Social Security being discussed in Washington.

4 What are delayed retirement credits and how do they work?

Delayed retirement credits are the financial reward Social Security gives you for putting off claiming your retirement benefit. Credits start accumulating the month you hit your full retirement age, or FRA (currently 66 and rising gradually to 67 for people born in 1960 or later).

For every month from your FRA until age 70 that you postpone filing for benefits, Social Security increases your eventual benefit by two-thirds of 1 percent — a total of 8 percent for each year you wait. For example, wage earners who reach full retirement age at 67 but delay claiming benefits until 70 will get an extra 24 percent tacked on to their monthly payment.

Keep in mind

. If you are already drawing retirements benefits but want to up your future payments (and can afford to temporarily go without your current ones), you can direct Social Security to suspend your benefits. During the suspension period you will collect the credits just as if you’d never filed. This option is available between FRA and age 70.

. If you file for Social Security after FRA but before age 70, your delayed retirement credits are added to your benefit payment starting in January of the year after you earned them. If you wait until you turn 70, you get all your credits right from the first payment.

. The credits stop accruing when you reach 70. You can file for Social Security later than that, but doing so won’t increase your monthly benefit.

[Source: AARP – Published October 10, 2018]

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