When to Take Social Security Spousal Benefits?

Dear Dr. Don,

My husband and I are full retirement age or older, but we plan to delay our own Social Security benefits until age 70. Can I, for example, "file and suspend," and then can my husband collect spousal benefits until age 70 when he files for his own benefits? Would the situation work vice versa? Can we both do it? If not, why not? The wife in this scenario will work full time during this period, and the husband also will likely have significant wage earnings.

- Nancy Niceties

Dear Nancy,

Since you're both either at or older than Social Security's full retirement age, the spouse with the better work record can file for benefits and then request the benefit payments be suspended. By doing so, the spouse can receive a spousal benefit while still earning delayed retirement credits on his or her work record. That is, one spousal benefit is paid. Both spouses can earn delayed retirement credits up until age 70.

I discussed your question with Edward Lafferty, a spokesman for the Social Security Administration. He confirmed there's only one spousal benefit available to a couple. Both spouses can't file and suspend and then each receive a spousal benefit based on the other spouse's work record while both earning delayed retirement credits.

Because you're both at or older than Social Security's full retirement age, your wage income won't reduce your Social Security benefit payments. However, you will be paying payroll taxes on the wages.

Bankrate's content, including the guidance of its advice-and-expert columns and this website, is intended only to assist you with financial decisions. The content is broad in scope and does not consider your personal financial situation. Bankrate recommends that you seek the advice of advisers who are fully aware of your individual circumstances before making any final decisions or implementing any financial strategy. Please remember that your use of this website is governed by Bankrate's Terms of Use.