Ask Larry: Will My Social Security Retirement Benefits Still Increase If I Stop Work At 62?

Social Security may be one of your largest assets. What and when you collect will make a huge difference to your lifetime benefits.

Today’s column addresses whether Social Security benefits can increase even without continued income, filing a restricted application, potential ramifications of filing at 62 for divorced spousal benefits, benefit eligibility after remarriage and taking retirement benefits after survivor benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, a company that markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner. Both tools maximize lifetime Social Security benefits. MaxiFi also finds retirement account withdrawal strategies and other ways to lower your lifetime taxes and raise your lifetime spending. Most important, it suggests how much to spend and save each year to enjoy a stable living standard through time.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Ask Larry about Social Security here.

Will My Social Security Retirement Benefits Still Increase If I Stop Work At 62?​​

Hi Larry, If I quit working at 62 and file for survivor’s benefits and then file for my own Social Security retirement benefit at 65, will my benefit go up during the years I am not working and receiving survivor’s benefit? Thanks, Renee

Hi Renee, Your primary insurance amount (PIA), which is the equivalent of your full retirement age benefit rate, would not go up if you stop working except for Social Security cost of living increases (COLAs). However, if you wait to claim your own retirement benefits until 65 instead of starting them at 62 your monthly rate will be higher. This is because it will be reduced less if you file at 65 than it would be if you file at 65. This would be true even if the person was drawing survivor benefits from 62 to 65. If you wait till your full retirement age (FRA), it won’t be decreased at all and if you delay past your FRA, it will be increased up to age 70. Best, Larry

What Is The Best Strategy For My Wife And Me?​​

I will be 66 in November 2019. I am still working and mostly like will wait till FRA. My wife of 40 years will be 64 in August 2019 and has not worked for more than 10 years. I’m not sure of the best route to take regarding her retirement benefit and potential spousal benefit. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks, Marshall

Hi Marshall, I would need additional information to know for sure, but one strategy you may want to at least consider would be for your wife to file for her own retirement benefits when you reach your full retirement age (FRA) of 66. That way, you could file a restricted application for spousal benefits starting at 66 while letting your own benefit rate grow until 70. That would not only provide you with a 32% higher retirement benefit rate than if you started drawing at 66, but would also likely provide your wife with a 32% higher survivor rate should you die before her.

By the way, the reason that you have the option to file just for spousal benefits only at your FRA is due to the fact that you were born prior to 1/2/1954, which exempts you from the new deeming rules passed by congress in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

Before making any final decisions, you may want to use one of my company’s two tools — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to help maximize your lifetime Social Security benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry

What Are The Ramifications Of Filing For Divorced Spousal Benefits At 62?​​

Hi Larry, I am almost 62 and my ex is 67. We were married for more than 10 years and I have not remarried. If I apply now for divorced spousal benefits, what are the ramifications? I read about filing and suspending or filing restricted applications and wonder if I should do them but I’m not sure. What do you think? Thanks, Tom

Hi Tom, Since you were born after 1/1/1954, you could never file a restricted application for divorced spousal benefits only provided that your ex is still living. If and when you file for divorced spousal benefits, you would be deemed to also be applying for your own retirement benefits. You could then only be paid what is essentially the higher of those two benefit rates, and your benefit amount would be reduced for age if you start drawing prior to your full retirement age (FRA).

Furthermore, if you claim benefits prior to FRA and you continue working, your benefits could be subject to full or partial withholding due to the Social Security earnings test. Your best filing strategy depends on a number of different variables, so you should strongly consider using software to compare your various options and determine your best strategy. Best, Larry

How Long Would My Girlfriend And I Need To Be Married So She Can Qualify For My SS?

Hi Larry, I am 64 and my girlfriend is 62. How long will we have to be married so she can qualify for benefits based on my record? Thanks, Peter

Hi Peter, Unless she’s already eligible for certain types of Social Security benefits or if she’s the mother of your child, your girlfriend would need to be married to you for at least a year in order to qualify for spousal benefits. In the event of your death, though, your new wife could potentially qualify for widow’s benefits if you you’ve been married for at least nine months leading up to the date of your death, or if she meets one of the exceptions to the duration of marriage requirement. Best, Larry

Can I Collect Both My Own Benefit And Widower’s Benefits?​​

Hi Larry, I am a 67 year old widower collecting on my late wife’s Social Security earnings record. I was under the impression that I couldn’t collect both my widower’s benefit based on her record as well as my retirement benefit base don my own record. If so, that seems to indicate that I should wait until 70 to switch from my widower’s benefit to my retirement benefit when it’s been increased due to waiting. Is that best? Can I collect both? Thanks, Al

Hi Al, You can’t collect both your own Social Security retirement benefit and a full widower’s benefit at the same time. If and when you file for your own retirement benefits, you’ll receive only the higher of the two benefit rates. Assuming that your own age 70 retirement benefit rate will be higher than your widower’s rate, your best strategy might likely be to file for your own retirement benefits at 70. But I of course can’t know for sure without more information. Best, Larry

To learn more about your Social Security options, visit Economic Security Planning, Inc.

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