Ask the Expert: Wait until 66 to collect spousal benefit

In general, it's better to delay taking Social In general, it's better to delay taking Social Security until age 70. Photo Credit: iStock

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My husband has been collecting Social Security since he was 62, but I haven't applied for it yet. I'm 59 years old. If I wait until I'm 65 to collect my spousal benefit, can I then switch to my own benefit at age 70?

 

Your plan will work if you tweak it just a bit. Instead of applying for a spousal benefit at 65, wait until you're 66. That's your full retirement age for Social Security purposes.

When you start collecting Social Security before full retirement age, you don't have the option of switching from a spousal benefit to your own benefit. But if you postpone your application until 66, you can restrict it to your spousal benefit alone. That lets you postpone filing for the benefit based on your own record until a later date. At that point, you'll switch from your spousal benefit to your own. (You can never collect both benefits at the same time.)

The advantage of postponing taking your own benefit until after your full retirement age is that it grows 8 percent a year for up to four years of delay. (This is true, even if you don't continue working during those four years.) In other words, if you don't apply for your benefit until you're 70, it will be 32 percent bigger (plus any annual Social Security inflation adjustments) than if you had started collecting it at age 66. You aren't committed to waiting four years, however. If you start your spousal benefit at 66, you can switch to your own at any time. The 8 percent yearly bonus accrues on a monthly basis, so even a short delay can boost your benefit.

The bottom line You have more options when you delay your Social Security application until your full retirement age.

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Websites with more information 1.usa.gov/1hfEjl9 and bit.ly/1hfEL2O

TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to Ask the Expert/Act 2, Newsday Newsroom, 235 Pinelawn Rd., Melville, NY 11747-4226, or email act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone number. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own advisers for your specific needs.

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