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Can I collect spousal benefits and wait until I am 70 to collect my own Social Security?

In most cases, no. If you are eligible for both spousal and retirement benefits, you are subject to Social Security’s “deemed filing” rule: When you file for Social Security, you are deemed to be simultaneously claiming both types of benefit and will receive whichever amount is higher.

Some older married people used to be able to file a “restricted application” to collect spousal benefits and put off claiming their retirement benefit. This allowed them to bring in some Social Security income while letting their prospective retirement benefit grow. Congress passed legislation in 2015 to phase out this maneuver, and the window closed for good at the start of 2024.

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Prior to the 2015 law, deemed filing did not apply to spouses who had reached full retirement age; they could file a restricted application, provided their mate was receiving retirement benefits. In eliminating this option, Congress grandfathered in people born before Jan. 2, 1954. Everyone in that group is now at least 70, the age at which you can claim your maximum retirement benefit, so the point of collecting spousal benefits first is moot.

There are two remaining exceptions to the deemed filing rule. It does not apply if:

  • You receive spousal benefits because you are caring for a child who is under 16 or has a disability.
  • You get spousal benefits and are also entitled to Social Security disability payments.

In these circumstances, you may be able to file a restricted application.

Keep in mind

If you spouse is not yet collecting Social Security, you can file for your own retirement benefit and switch to a spousal benefit when your mate starts collecting, if the spousal benefit is larger than your retirement payment.

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