• Chris Stein, CFP®

Spousal and Dependent Benefits

I received the following question:

My wife and I have full legal and physical custody of our granddaughter. She is 16 months old and my wife and I have been taking care of her since she was 1 month old. To care for her my wife had to close her business. My wife is 59 years of age and I am 64; neither of us is collecting SS now.

Our question is, can my wife file for spousal benefits? I am still working. If she filed, can I file as well to collect and never get those benefits because I make too much? If I never collect my SS benefits do they still accrue and become available when I reach my FRA of 66 years, 2 months?

There are several issues here so I’ll go through them point by point.

  1. Your wife can only file for Spousal In-Care Benefits once you have filed for your benefits.

  2. Once you file for your benefits, Dependent Benefits also become available to your dependent child (your granddaughter, in this case). All benefits would be subject to the Family Maximum.

  3. If you file now, you are subject to the Earnings Test, and so are your wife’s Spousal Benefits and granddaughter’s Dependent Benefits.

  4. If you don’t anticipate receiving benefits due to the Earnings Test, your wife and granddaughter’s benefits would likely be affected as well.

  5. Once you reach Full Retirement Age (FRA) your earnings would no longer affect any of the three benefits.

The Conclusion

Unfortunately, it may not be worth filing now if you know the Earnings Test would remove any benefits income. If that is the case, it may be in your best interest to wait the two years until you reach your FRA to file for your benefits.

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