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Ask the Expert: Pay attention to Social Security rules to maximize benefits

You can file a "restricted application" for a spouse's benefit, postponing your own while it accrues delayed-retirement credits.

My wife and I are 68 years old. I’m still working, not collecting Social Security. She took her benefit when she retired at 63. A Social Security agent recently suggested that I apply for a spousal benefit based on my wife’s record. She said this wouldn’t affect my own benefit when I retired. Is that true? She also said that when I retire, my wife can switch from her own benefit to her (larger) spousal benefit based on my record.

You got good advice!

You meet the requirements to file a “restricted application” — i.e., to apply only for a spouse’s benefit, postponing your own benefit while it accrues delayed-retirement credits:

You’re over your full retirement age;

    Your wife has already applied for her benefit;
    You were born on or before Jan. 2, 1954.

And being over full retirement age, you can collect your full spousal benefit while you work regardless of the amount you earn. (People who are under full retirement age and collect Social Security while working temporarily forfeit $1 of benefit for every $2 they earn above $17,040. Those who’ll reach full retirement age in 2018 forfeit $1 for every $3 earned above $45,360.)

When you retire, you’ll switch from your spousal benefit to your own benefit. Your wife can then apply for a spousal benefit. Let’s say that her full retirement age benefit was $1,000, but it was reduced to $750 because she took it early. And let’s say her maximum spousal benefit based on your record is $1,200. The $200 difference between her own full benefit and her maximum spousal benefit would be added to her $750 check, for a total benefit of $950, says Linda Lauria, a Social Security Administration spokeswoman.

The bottom line

It pays to study Social Security’s rules.

More information

nwsdy.li/RetirementPlanner

nwsdy.li/SSlawChanges

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