Are You Leaving Social Security Benefits On The Table?

If we go back in history to four or more years ago and educate Ben and Anita, we could ensure that Ben, having been born before 1954, files a restricted application for spousal benefits. Then he’ll begin to collect the SRIB, while still delaying his own RIB filing to age 70.

This same option is available to Ben if he and Anita were divorced, as long as their marriage lasted at least 10 years. 

Unfortunately, this type of restricted application is only available to folks who were born in 1954 or earlier – so if you (or your spouse) are not at least 65 in 2019, this example won’t apply to your situation.

The second example of leaving Social Security benefits on the table deals with the coordination of your own retirement benefit (RIB), with the survivor’s benefit, which we’ll refer to as WIB (WIB stands for Widow(er)’s Insurance Benefit).

Karen is a widow, her husband Leon died five years ago at the age of 63. Leon had not started collecting Social Security benefits at the time of his death. Karen will turn 62 in July of this year, and she’s planning to retire at that time. She called the local SSA office to set an appointment to find out about her benefits.

When Karen meets with the Social Security folks, they ask her about her marital status, and Karen provides Leon’s identifying information. It turns out that, if Karen was to file for the WIB (survivor benefit) based on Leon’s record, she could receive an additional $10 per month! Karen’s RIB at this point is $1,000, and the WIB is presently $1,010. Of course, Karen says yes, she’d like to receive that extra $10 (in the words of Geddy Lee, “Ten bucks is ten bucks!”).

The problem is that the Social Security folks didn’t tell Karen that she could have started receiving her own RIB at age 62, and then later, upon reaching Full Retirement Age she could switch over to the WIB, which would have increased by an additional $230 per month by that time! In the meantime, she’d be collecting the RIB (that was $10 less than the WIB at that point), but then later she could bump up her total monthly benefit by $230.

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