It Might Be Time to Revisit Your Social Security Claiming Strategy

Recent rule changes have forced many to reconsider their SS claiming strategy, however, if you are the right age, there may still be time to implement them before the window of opportunity closes for good.

Married couples who planned to use the file-and-suspend strategy or the file-a-restricted-application strategy to boost their Social Security benefits may need to reconsider their plans. Changes to the Social Security rules made by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 put an end to these strategies for most people, although some people may still be able to use them if they act soon.

old coupleFile and Suspend

The file-and-suspend strategy makes it possible for married couples of retirement age to collect come Social security benefits now and larger benefits later on.

Here’s how it typically works. At full retirement age, you file for your own benefits, which opens the door for your spouse to file for spousal benefits based on your record. You then immediately suspend your benefits so that the monthly benefit amount can continue to increase until you reach the age of 70. If your spouse has also reached full retirement age, he or she can file a restricted application for just spousal benefits, leaving his or her own benefits to increase until age 70. At age 70, when the monthly benefit amounts have increased as much as possible, you begin receiving your benefits and your spouse switches to his or her own benefits.

That’s how the strategy works under the old rules. The Bipartisan Budget Act puts new rules in place that prevent spouses and dependents from collecting benefits based on someone else’s suspended benefit, which effectively puts an end to this strategy. However, the new rules do not go into effect until at least 180 days after the law was signed, which occurred on November 2, 2015. So you have until approximately April 30, 2016 to implement a file-and-suspend strategy, provided you have reached full retirement age (age 66).

The new rules will not affect people who have already implemented a file-and-suspend strategy. They will continue to receive the benefits they planned on.

File a Restricted Application

The file-a-restricted-application strategy may make it possible for a retirement-age spouse to collect spousal benefits now while their own benefits continue to grow.

Here’s how it typically works. If you have reached full retirement age and are eligible for spousal benefits and your own benefits, you can generally file a restricted application for just spousal benefits. This tactic allows you to receive spousal benefits for a few years while delayed retirement credits pump up the amount of your own monthly benefit, which you can switch to at age 70.

Due to new rules created by the Bipartisan Budget Act, this strategy can now only be used by people who reached age 62 prior to 2016. If you are any younger than that, you will generally not be allowed to file a restriction application for just spousal benefits when the time comes for you to apply for Social Security benefits. If you are eligible for spousal benefits and your own benefits, you will automatically receive the higher of those two amounts.

But if you were age 62 or older on January 1, 2016, you still have the option to file a restricted application for just spousal benefits when you reach full retirement age so that your own benefit can continue to increase until age 70, provided your spouse is already receiving benefits or was able to file for benefits and then suspend them before approximately April 30, 2016.


The changes to the Social Security rules were made to prevent individuals from receiving larger benefits than Congress intended. However, Congress did not change the rules regarding delayed retirement credits so you still have the option to increase the size of your monthly benefit by delaying the start of your benefits. For every year you delay, between full retirement age and age 70, the amount of your monthly benefit will increase by 8%.

Still confused? Copper Leaf Financials’ team of CPAs and experienced financial planners have worked with clients for more than 15 years to help them achieve their short and long-term financial objectives – mindful of the need to adjust strategies as life circumstances evolve.

For more information call 802-878-2731.