How will Social Security work with my husband being 21 years older than myself? He is retiring in 4 years.

Asked by Bobbie

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Answered by Bradford Creger, MoneyTips ContributorPRO+ in Pasadena, CA
Bobbie,
Your husband’s social security will work the same way everyone else’s does. What is important is his age and not necessarily when he retires. Social security is tied to the worker’s age and work record. So he can turn on benefits at a reduced payment before his normal retirement age. He can wait until normal retirement age and receive his full benefit. Or he can delay beyond his normal retirement age and receive an increased benefit. Of course, his benefit payment is subject to additional rules and could be reduced and/or taxed based on his age and total income.

I think what you are actually asking is what does your age difference mean to you and how does this affect your ability to receive social security? I’m ignoring the details on how you coordinate benefits and make decisions when you reach normal retirement age approximately 25 years from now. The rules will probably change by then anyway.

What is different in your situation is that due to your age difference we cannot “coordinate spousal benefits” with your husband’s benefits to maximize the benefits received when he retires 4 years from now. These coordination techniques include a “file & suspend” strategy and/or filing a “restricted application.” Some of these strategies are being looked at by Congress and may be eliminated. Since these methods are not going to be available to you and your husband I will not devote any time explaining how these strategies work.

The big question for you is what happens if he dies before you reach your own normal retirement age and are eligible for your own benefits? The answer… A widow or widower can receive benefits under the following circumstances: 1. At age 60 or older; 2. At age 50 or older if you are disabled; or 3. At any age if she/he takes care of a child of the deceased who is younger than age 16 or if the child is disabled.

If he lives to life expectancy (I’m assuming he’s in good health) and you are old enough to be eligible for your own benefits, then, at his death, you will be able to claim the higher of the two benefits (either his benefit or yours) and you will receive the highest payment of the two. You cannot collect on both.

This is how benefits work under the current rules. I both hope and expect that Washington will get to work and make some adjustments to the social security system before you are eligible some 25 years from now. Our current system will collapse if we do not make the necessary changes.

My advice to you is to focus on maximizing your husband’s benefit in light of his age, earned income and other retirement income sources.

I hope this helps. I would be happy to answer any follow up questions you may have regarding maximizing your husband’s benefits.
Brad
| 11.05.15 @ 16:49
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$commenter.renderDisplayableName() — {comment} | 12.03.16 @ 00:19
Answered by Bradford Creger, MoneyTips ContributorPRO+ in Pasadena, CA
Bobbie,
I just read that both the file & suspend and restricted application strategies have been eliminated in legislation passed in both the Congress and the Senate. These changes were included in the recent budget legislation passed last week. These new rules will take effect within 6 months of the law being enacted after President Obama signs the measure. I guess we don’t need to worry about those strategies for anyone moving forward…
Brad
| 11.05.15 @ 18:10
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$commenter.renderDisplayableName() — {comment} | 12.03.16 @ 00:19
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