Social Security: Can I Apply for Just Spousal Benefits While Postponing My Own To Earn Delayed Credits?

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If you’re thinking about delaying your Social Security retirement benefits to get a bigger payment later on, here’s something you need to know: You can’t delay your own benefits and still apply for your spouse’s benefits to get those earlier.

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According to the Social Security Administration, if you turned age 62 on or after January 2, 2016, you are required or “deemed” to file for both your own retirement and for any benefits you are due as a spouse, no matter your age. “Deemed filing” means that when you file for either your retirement or your spouse’s benefit, you are required — or deemed — to file for the other benefit, as well.

Keep in mind that the rules for deemed filing apply only to retirement benefits based on your own work record and to the spousal benefits — including a divorced spouse’s — you receive upon retirement. If you get a spousal benefit because you are caring for a child who is under age 16 or disabled, or if you receive spousal benefits and are also entitled to disability, deemed filing does not apply. In this case, you aren’t required, or “deemed,” to file for your retirement benefit.

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If you want to delay your own retirement benefits to ensure a bigger payment, you can do that for yourself only. This applies if you have reached full retirement age but are not yet age 70, in which case you can contact the SSA and request a suspension in retirement benefit payments.

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Suspending your benefit payments until later can earn you delayed retirement credits for each month your benefits are suspended. Those credits turn into more money when you start collecting. Just remember that if you voluntarily suspend your retirement benefits, any benefits you receive on someone else’s record will also be suspended.

You can find out more by visiting the SSA page on voluntary suspension.

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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