Social Security Tip of the Month:

If I am married and my spouse already has filed for Social Security, can I collect half of his benefit and wait to claim my own retirement benefit later?

Probably not. The procedure you are describing is called “filing a restricted application” (filing for one benefit before the other); you may employ this strategy only if you were born prior to January 2, 1954. If you were born on January 2, 1954, or later, you fall into the “deemed filing” category. That means you are deemed to file for all benefits simultaneously, even if you aren’t entitled to both retirement and spousal benefits at the same time (e.g., if your spouse has not yet filed for his retirement benefit).

Gone are the days when you could choose to file for a spousal (or ex-spousal) benefit first (unless you fall into the category just mentioned above), then file for your own retirement benefit later. Now – unless the benefit under your spouse’s record is greater than the benefit you have earned from your own earnings history – you will forfeit the spousal benefit and only collect your own.

The Rules for deemed filing don’t apply to survivor benefits, however (a fact that is often missed, by the way). Therefore, if you are a widow or widower, you could claim a survivor benefit, or vice versa, to maximize the income you receive from the two benefits.

To discuss your social security benefits, call Mel Samick at 888-839-3536

Information for this article came from Social Security Advisor, Heather Schreiber.