Today’s column responds to reader questions about the earnings test, filing restricted applications, how remarriage can affect available benefits, more on the earnings test and when checks can be expected. Larry Kotlikoff is the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security, a Social Security benefits calculator referred to in this post.
See more Ask Larry answers here.
Ask Larry about Social Security:
Will No Income After 62 Reduce My Retirement Benefit at 70?
Hi Larry, If one stops working at 62 and plans to draw Social Security retirement benefits at 70, I was told by my friend that Social Security calculates benefits based on the last 35 years income. If one does not work from 62 to 70 their income would of course be $0 for those years. Are these years included in the calculation or only the last 35 years worked with income? If the person has monthly pension military during, is this included in the 35-year calculation even though the person did not work? Thanks, Ben
Hi Ben, Social Security doesn’t necessary use the last 35 years of a person’s work to calculate their retirement benefit rate. Instead, they use an average of the person’s highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings, regardless of when those earnings occurred. So if a person has no earnings from age 62 to age 70, Social Security would simply not use those years in the person’s benefit calculation, assuming that they had at least 35 other years in which they had covered earnings.
Military pensions are not subject to Social Security taxes, and would not be used to calculate a person’s Social Security benefit amount. Best, Larry
Can I Collect On My Husband’s Record At Full Retirement Age And Allow My Own Rate To Grow Until Age 70?
Hi Larry, My husband is retired and is collecting Social Security. He is 76. When I am full retirement age 66 years and 4 months, can I collect my spousal benefit drawn on his benefit and let my retirement benefit continue to grow until I am 70? What would my spousal benefit be? He currently receives about $2,200 a month. If I wait until I’m 70 to collect on my account, my benefit, according to today’s chart, will be about $3,100. We have gotten at least three different answers on this! I appreciate any help you can give us. Thanks, Betsy
Hi Claudia, Since you were born after 1/1/1954, you would be deemed to be filing for your own retirement benefits whenever you filed for spousal benefits. Only people born prior to 1/2/1954 can file a restricted application for spousal benefits only at full retirement age and allow their own benefit rate to grow until age 70. You may want to consider using an expert Social Security benefits calculator as described in other answers to fully explore your options and determine your best overall filing strategy. Best, Larry
Can I Collect On My Ex-Spouse’s Record If I’ve Remarried?
Hi Larry, I was married to my ex for 30 years before we divorced in 2000. I remarried at 51 and am 65. I have collected my Social Security retirement benefit since 62. Can I collect a spousal benefit based on my ex’s income since it would be more than my own retirement benefit. Thanks, Clara
Hi Clara, You wouldn’t qualify for divorced spousal benefits as long as your remarriage continues. However, you could potentially become eligible for benefits on your ex’s record if your current marriage ends in death or divorce. Best, Larry
Is There A Limit On The Income I Can Earn If I Work Past Age 67?
Hi Larry, I am planning on working full time until I reach 67. I am currently collecting a spousal benefit and my wife is 62 and is collecting her retirement benefit. If I apply for my retirement benefits at 67, and my wife files for her spousal benefit at the same time, is there a limit on the amount of income I can earn if I continue to work full time past age 67? Thanks, Paul
Hi Paul, You won’t be subject to the earnings test once you reach your full retirement age (FRA) but you still may want to strongly consider waiting until age 70 to switch to your own record. Your retirement benefit rate will continue to grow by 8% per year until then if you wait, and that higher rate could also potentially be passed on to your wife in the form of a widow’s benefit should you die first. You may want to use an expert Social Security benefits calculator, such as Maximize My Social Security or another extremely careful and precise program, to compare your options and determine your best overall filing strategy. Best, Larry
Will I Have To Wait Until The Next Regular Payment Date To Receive My First Check?
Hi Larry, SSA still says my claim is under review due to quality control after several weeks. Over a week ago, my lawyer called and said they spoke with SSA, and my claim was approved. It was approved without any appeals in approximately 60 days. Today would be my scheduled pay date and nothing was deposited. Will I have to wait till next month or could it post to my account earlier? Thanks, Mark
Hi Mark, Your first payment could come at any time. When Social Security owes back pay for previous months, they don’t wait until the regularly scheduled payment date to make their initial payment. You should also receive an award letter by mail that explains how your payment amount was calculated, but that could be received up to two weeks after you receive your first direct deposit.
To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.