Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about reductions in partner’s pension when taken before full retirement age, requesting that benefits be recalculated to ensure the accuracy and potential effects of early retirement benefits on benefits for subsequent survivors. Larry Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.
See more Ask Larry answers here.
Do you have questions about social security that you would like to see answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.
Are Social Security benefits always reduced before full retirement age?
Hi Larry, I’ve heard that you can get a partner’s benefit equal to half of your spouse’s Social Security benefit before you reach full retirement age. Is this true? And if I am now disabled and have just turned 62, can I still do this? I was also told that you should only choose until you reach full retirement age, and most people choose the higher of the two benefit amounts. Thanks Kelly
Hi Kelly, that’s not true. Full-time partner benefits are calculated at 50% of the employee’s primary insurance amount (PIA), which is equal to the full retirement age (FRA) amount. But if you start receiving partner benefits (FRA) before full retirement age (FRA), your rate will be reduced for age.
In addition, if you apply for partner benefits before FRA, you are expected to also apply for your own Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. Then you can only qualify for a partner’s benefit if your partner’s pension is higher than your own pension.
The only people who can claim partner benefits without also claiming their own benefits are people born before 1/2/1954, and even they can only do this if they apply for partner benefits from FRA or later.
If you are receiving Social Security (SSDI) benefits and you are age 62 or older, you may be able to apply for a partner’s benefit, but you will only be eligible for divorce benefits if your spouse’s PIA is more than twice as high as your own full SSDI. rate.
However, you cannot claim partner benefits until your spouse starts taking their Social Security pension or SSDI benefits, and if you qualify for divorce benefits and if you start taking them before the FRA, your spousal rate would be reduced for age .
You and your spouse may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to fully analyze your options so you can make informed decisions about your best strategy to maximize your benefits and avoid unconsciously leaves money on the table. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profit organizations can provide good suggestions if built with extreme care. Dear Larry
Can I submit a request to have my payout percentage recalculated?
Hi Larry, I have become disabled and I am convinced that my Social Security benefit has not been calculated correctly. Can I ask to have it recalculated? I started receiving it in 1997 and due to circumstances at the time the process was rushed and I really think it may not have been calculated correctly. Thanks Aaron
Hi Aaron, Yes, you can submit a written and signed request for a recalculation of your Social Security benefit percentage. The preferred form for that purpose is an SSA-795, which is basically a blank form on which you write down what you are asking and why.
The form can then be submitted to your Social Security Office. However, I must add that Social Security calculates the benefit percentages correctly in most cases. Dear Larry
What impact would filing her own benefits at age 62 have on my wife’s survival rate?
Hi Larry, I am 52 and my wife is 51. The best strategy for maximizing our Social Security income seems to be my wife claiming her retirement benefit at 62 and I claim partner benefits until I am 70 and then switch to my retirement benefit as I am the one who earns a higher salary over time.
But what impact would this have on her widow’s benefits if I died before I turned 70? Can she still wait until I’m 70 to get the highest possible widow’s benefit? Thank you Miguel
Hi Miguel, If you die before applying for benefits, your wife’s non-reduced widow’s rate will be at least 100% of your primary insurance amount (PIA). A person’s PIA is equal to Social Security’s retirement benefit percentage if they begin drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA).
If you die after reaching full retirement age (FRA), your wife’s non-reduced widow percentage would be equal to 100% of the benefit percentage you would have owed if you had started your benefit in the month of your death receive. That would be your PIA plus the Deferred Retirement Credits (DRCs) you had earned up to the time of your death.
To get 100% of your PIA or 100% of your PIA plus DRCs, your wife would have to wait until her FRA to get her widow’s benefit. However, she might be able to collect her own retirement benefit sooner, and any age reduction applied to her retirement benefit would not lower her widows’ percentage. If your wife starts to receive a widow’s benefit before the FRA, her benefit percentage will be reduced according to age.
One important thing I would like to emphasize is that you cannot collect a partner’s pension while deferring your own benefit until the age of 70. Only people born before 1/2/1954 are allowed to apply for a partner allowance without having to apply for their own benefits at the same time, and even they can only do that if they apply for the partner allowance at FRA or later. Dear Larry