Ask Larry: Am I Wrong About Child-In-Care Spousal Benefits And Delayed Retirement Credits?


Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about earning delayed retirement credits (DRCs) while receiving child-in-care spousal benefits, the possibility and advisability of taking spousal benefits before retirement benefits and withdrawing a spousal benefit application. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.

Am I Wrong About Child-In-Care Spousal Benefits And Delayed Retirement Benefits?

Hi Larry, I’m currently 63. Ever since I filed for child-in-care spousal benefits, I’m no longer able to get future estimated retirement benefits for myself from the SSA website. Whenever I check my online account for my future amount, it states instead that I’m already receiving benefits. My understanding was that unlike with regular spousal benefits, a child-in-care benefit does not prevent my own retirement benefits from continuing to increase until 70. Am I wrong? Thanks, Evan

Hi Evan, You’re not wrong.

We’ve been assured by officials at Social Security that people receiving child-in-care spousal benefits can continue to collect those benefits while waiting until 70 to claim their own benefits. Social Security’s operations manual isn’t clear on that subject, which is why we checked with the Social Security officials. So if you choose to wait until 70 to claim your retirement benefits, you’ll accrue delayed retirement credits (DRCs) starting at your full retirement age (FRA) even if you continue to collect child-in-care spousal benefits.

The fact that you can no longer get benefit estimates on Social Security’s website is simply due to their website’s limitations. Social Security stops providing online estimates to people who are receiving benefits, regardless of what type of benefits they’re collecting. Best, Larry

Is There Any Benefit For Me To Claim Spousal Benefits Now?

Hi Larry, I am past full retirement age. My wife will be at full retirement age later this year. Is there any benefit for me to receive spousal benefits now? Would I then convert to my own retirement benefits later? Thanks, Lyle

Hi Lyle, You can’t be paid spousal benefits at least until your spouse starts drawing their Social Security retirement or disability (SSDI) benefits. And even then, you’ll only be able to qualify for spousal benefits if your wife’s primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than twice as much as your own PIA. Also, people born after 1/1/1954 are not allowed to claim only spousal benefits while waiting until later to claim their retirement benefits.

It sounds like you and your wife may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to ensure your household receives the highest lifetime benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry

Can My Wife Withdraw Her Claim For Her Own Benefits And File For Spousal Benefits Instead?

Hi Larry, Can my wife withdraw the application for her retirement amount and then reapply for the spousal benefit? She has not received any payments yet as they are set to start next month. Thanks, Alan

Hi Alan, Your wife can withdraw the claim she filed, but unless she was born prior to 1/2/1954, she won’t be able to file just for spousal benefits without being required to also apply for her own Social Security retirement benefits at the same time.

She also couldn’t be paid spousal benefits unless you’re drawing your retirement benefits. So if you’re not yet 70, you’d be forgoing delayed retirement credits (DRCs) you could otherwise accrue by delaying until as late as 70. Best, Larry

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