Ask Larry: Should My Husband Delay So SSA Will Use His 2021 Income To Calculate His Benefit?


Today’s column addresses questions about whether it would be good to wait till January to file ensure all current earnings are used to determine benefit amounts, requesting an Administrative Law Judge hearing and the availability of larger childhood disability benefits (CDBs) when the higher earner files. 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.

Should My Husband Delay So SSA Will Use His 2021 Income To Calculate His Benefit?

Hi Larry, My husband will be 70 in October and planned on applying for his Social Security on his birthday. However, this year he will earn more than any other year he has worked. So should he wait until 2022 to apply so that his benefits will reflect the highest paying job?

As I recall, the SSA takes the highest of your earning years out of all that you have worked to compute your benefit. Is that right? Thanks, Patti

Hi Patti, Social Security does use an average of a person’s highest 35 years of Social Security wage-indexed earnings to calculate their Social Security retirement benefit rate. However, there’s no reason for your husband to wait past the month he reaches 70 to claim his benefits.

Social Security can’t use your husband’s 2021 earnings in the calculation of his benefit rate until his payment for the month of January 2022. But your husband can start collecting at 70 and then have his benefit rate recalculated later to include his 2021 earnings.

Social Security would automatically recalculate your husband’s benefits if his 2021 earnings are high enough to raise his rate, but not until the latter part of 2022. They would pay any back pay due as a result of the recalculation retroactive to January 2022. Best, Larry

Can I Request An Administrative Law Judge Hearing?

Hi Larry, I’m trying get my Social Security check back to it’s original schedule of third week of the month. My birthdate is on the 16th and my late ex’s was the 28th). The deposit date changed to the 3rd of each month when ex-husband died late last year. I have written two reconsideration appeals but both were denied.

Can I request an Administrative Law Judge hearing? If so, which form should I use? Thanks, Marcy

Hi Marcy, Yes, you can file for a hearing, but you normally must do so within 60 days of the date of your reconsideration determination unless you have good cause for late filing. The form to use to request a hearing is an HA-501.

You can see more here. Best, Larry

If My Disabled Adult Child Claims Benefits On My Wife’s Record Now, Will He Be Able To Switch To My Account When I Apply?

Hi Larry, I am 65; my wife is 63. My Social Security full retirement age PIA benefit estimate is approximately $200 greater than hers. We had been planning on waiting to file for Social Security until a later date in order to maximize our benefits, especially delaying my filing in order to increase her survivor benefit.

We recently learned, however, that our adult child who has been totally disabled since birth, could qualify for Social Security disability benefits once one of us applies for and receives retirement benefits. So one of us will apply for retirement benefits now in order to get his disability benefits to kick in as well as to start the clock so that he is eligible for Medicare in 24 months.

I understand that if my wife applies now and receives the benefit, our son would qualify for a benefit of 50% of her PIA. When I apply for my retirement benefits at a later date, will our sons Social Security disability benefit be based on the higher of the two PIA amounts or will it be frozen at the amount for whomever applies first? Thanks, Ted

Hi Ted, Yes, your son can switch from drawing on his mother’s account to drawing on your account when you start drawing your retirement benefits, and at that point his unreduced benefit rate would go up from 50% of your wife’s primary insurance amount (PIA) to 50% of your PIA.

Your best filing strategy depends on a number of factors, such as your and your wife’s expected annual earnings prior to full retirement age (FRA). You also haven’t mentioned the possibility of filing for child-in-care spousal benefits, which may be a good strategy if your son is living with you and your wife.

It sounds like you may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner —to help you determine the optimal filing strategy for maximizing benefits for you and your family. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry

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