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Social Security - File and Suspend Example


An attractive rule that unfortunately is no longer available to new retirees is the "file and suspend" claiming strategy. The benefit of filing and suspending was that once an eligible social security recipient reached age 66, they could file for benefits and then immediately suspend. The filing triggered other auxiliary benefits to a spouse, ex-spouse, or dependent children. The suspension allowed the recipient’s retirement benefit to increase 8% a year until the age of 70. Today, a spouse or dependent cannot receive benefits from another’s work record unless that person is also receiving benefits (exception for divorced spouses).


Husband, 68 years-old, filed and suspended his benefits in 2015. His primary insurance amount was $2,500 per month ( he was eligible to receive at age 66). Husband is taking advantage of the delayed retirement credits that increase his Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) by 8% a year for 4 years until age 70 (maximum age to continue delaying). Husband’s monthly benefit will increase by 32% to approximately $3,300 per month at age 70. Wife, age 65, retired, wants to begin receiving benefits now - either her own retirement benefits or spousal benefits based on Husband’s primary insurance amount.


Q: What are requirements to “file and suspend?”

The main requirement is very straightforward – if you were at least 66 and “filed and suspended” prior to April 29, 2016, you are eligible to receive the benefits of file and suspend.


Q: What benefit is available to Wife by Husband electing to file and suspend? will Wife’s benefit be if she files early at 65? At 66?

Once Husband files, Wife is eligible to file for spousal benefits. But if she doesn’t wait until she reaches her Full Retirement Age (66), she will receive the higher of either her retirement benefit or less than 50% of Husband’s primary insurance amount. But is she waits until age 66, she could receive 50% of Husband’s PIA and her own retirement benefits will increase by 8% a year in delayed retirement credits until she reaches age 70.

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