On This Episode
Today’s show is part 4 of our social security discussion. Our topic today is spousal benefit options. John and Nick will walk us through the ins and outs of this facet of social security and offer their advice.
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Here is a transcript of today’s episode:
Mark: Hey everybody, welcome into another edition of Retirement Planning Redefined. Thanks as always for checking out and tuning into the podcast with John and Nick, financial advisors at PFG Private wealth. Gents, what’s going on? John, I’ll start with you. How are you buddy?
John: I’m doing good. I’m doing good. How are you doing Mark?
Mark: I’m hanging in there. How’s the little one’s doing? I know they, you had some cold running through the house. Everybody getting better?
John: They’re getting much better, which is good. No more getting coughed in my face a lot less this week, so yeah, that’s a good thing.
Mark: And Nick, how are you my friend?
Nick: Good, good. Looking forward to the holidays coming up here and all kinds of good food.
Mark: Oh yeah, yeah. Are you a Thanksgiving kind of guy?
Nick: I have become more so after my brother started deep frying turkeys a couple of years ago.
Mark: Okay, good. So no YouTube videos of that now, so just be careful. We don’t want to see any flying turkeys.
Nick: He’s got it all under control.
Mark: Fantastic. Awesome. Yeah. At the time of this podcast taping it is just about Thanksgiving. It’s just about here on us. And so we’re going to continue on with our a multi-part series we’ve been doing about Social Security. So hopefully you’ve been checking these out and if you have, great, if you have not, make sure you go to the podcast page, you can find it on their website at pfgprivatewealth.com that’s P F G private wealth.com and you’ll find the podcast page. You can subscribe to it on Apple or Google or Spotify. I think there’s other couple of choices there as well.
Mark: So make sure you do, a lot of good content that we’re discussing. This is a multi-part series all around Social Security and part four here is going to be on Social Security, spousal benefits, not deep frying turkeys that’ll come another day, but a Social Security spousal benefits. So guys, let’s get into this and just kind of break down some information for us on, I guess, what we’re entitled to or how this whole thing kind of works.
Nick: Sure. So just kind of a recap on, you know, how eligibility wears for Social Security. Essentially somebody needs to work, you know, for 40 quarters, pay payroll taxes for those 40 quarters and they become eligible for their own benefit. However, you know, one of the common questions that we may get is one spouse stayed at home, one spouse worked. The spouse that stayed at home didn’t get their 40 quarters. And they want to know are they eligible for any sort of benefit.
Nick: So it’s important to understand that, you know, as long as the couple is married, the person that has not qualified for the benefit is eligible for a spousal benefit. And that spousal benefit is essentially calculated by looking at the full retirement amount benefit for the spouse that was working and multiplying by 50%. So, that’s the starting line. That’s kind of how you understand how they calculate that. And the reason that they did create that was understanding that households, you know, it’s not always cut and dry from the standpoint of one spouse is working. There’s obviously value to the other spouse staying home, helping to raise a family and they want to protect that spouse in situations like divorce or other sorts of scenarios by providing them with this kind of caveat for how the benefits work.
Mark: Okay. And yeah, so the simple way to break it down. So give us some more, John, give us some more things to think about here when we’re talking about the eligibility of spouses, maybe some rules, things of that nature.
John: Yeah. So basically, some of the rules before you can collect a spousal benefit, the primary worker must have filed. So wait until the spouse actually draws and then you can go ahead and take your spousal benefit. Spouses can actually start taking it at age 62, that’s the soonest that you can start taking.
Nick: So a kind of a good example of that is, so let’s say, Mr. Smith has been the worker and Mrs. Smith stayed at home with the family and raised a family. And a couple of years ago, two years ago, she started working, you know, so she’s not eligible for her own benefit. So Mr. Smith is going to continue to work and Mrs. Smith is trying to figure out, “Hey, I’m also 62, can I file for benefits?” So the answer is not until Mr. Smith essentially retires and fights for his benefit. So that’s where the restrictions on the ages kind of come to play.
Nick: And when John referred to that primary worker must filed for their benefits, there used to be some other rules in play where you can kind of navigate around, but they really cut down and things are a lot more restricted than they used to be.
John: Yeah. And just to kind of give some numbers to that, let’s say Mr Smith’s full retirement benefit was 2,400, Mrs Smith’s spousal benefit would be, as Nick mentioned, 50% of that sort of 1200. And again, so her spousal benefit is based off of his full retirement amount benefit and not what he actually gets. So example of that would be, you know, when she goes to draw, let’s say if he’d started taking early and he get his full 2,400, she’s not penalize by that. Her 50% is still the 1200, assuming she draws at her full retirement age.
John: If she decides to take early at 62 she will actually have a reduction of her spousal benefit.
Nick: It is important for people to understand that, you know, there’s the dates on when people start to receive the benefits are calculated, or factored in I should say, for each person. Though it factored in potentially when Mr. Smith files and starts collecting and it’s also factored in when Mrs. Smith files and starts collecting. And so there’s a lot of different variations on how that works. And because there are some different variations, we typically recommend to people that, you know, I was helping you kind of walk through the different, let’s test out different scenarios and figure which one makes the most sense because there are so many factors that go into the decision.
Nick: We understand a lot of people like to just, you know, they want a cut and dry answer and unfortunately or fortunately, the positive to there not being a cut and dry answer is that, you know, oftentimes they can be strategic and find something that works better for them and if it were cut and dry. But it does take a factoring in a lot of other things to make the right decision.
John: Yeah. At first the answers to certain questions are, it depends.
Mark: Yeah, that’s the case a lot of times I think.
John: One question we actually get a lot and we talked about in the last sessions was, you know, if you draw Social Security after full retirement age, you actually get a percent increase in your benefit. That does not work for spousal benefits. So if the spouse didn’t want to take or they want to defer their spousal benefit, they do not get the 8% increase on it.
Nick: Yeah. So, we have seen that mistake happen, you know, the primary person has decided, “Hey, let’s wait to collect the benefit” because they are under the assumption that not only will their benefit grow by 8%, but the spousal benefit that their spouse will take will grow, but that’s not the case. Only their benefit grows, the spousal benefit does not. So when we run kind of break even calculations, it can often makes sense to just have them start collecting so that they can get both of them.
John: Yeah. And then, you know, it’s important understand also for to be eligible for spousal benefits, you have to be married at least one year. So can’t be a just getting married and after six months started drawing on Social Security for a spouse.
Mark: They’re not going to just make it too easy for you anyway. All right, so that’s some good rules. That’s some good basic information there. What are some strategies? Give us a few things to think about when it comes to the spousal benefit options.
John: Yeah. And like we said, everyone’s situation is different. It really depends and it’s important to customize what works for you. And I think we offered in the last session, but if anyone wants it, we actually are working on a Social Security machination strategy, which we’re happy to do so. But one thing that we’ll do with some spousal strategies, depending on the situation, we might have one spouse claim early and the other spouse, depending on the situation, you know example of that would be, let’s say we have a high earner and they want to protect the spouse in case of a premature death. So we might go ahead and have the high earner, who’s Social Security benefit is higher, actually delay theirs. So, if they were to pass away prematurely, that spouse can actually jump onto a higher amount, high Social Security benefit, which is nice strategy to protect the surviving spouse.
John: I’ve used that a couple of times when there’s an age gap on the spouses or if I’m there, you know, sometimes clients will come in and they’re just concerned saying, “Hey, I’m really concerned something could happen to me. Is my spouse going to be okay?” We’ll go ahead and implement some strategies like that.
Nick: Another time where that can be used is if the primary earner has worked at in an occupation where they’re eligible for a pension and they’re going to receive a pension and they, you know, kind of through planning or whatever it may be. Or like the example of John mentioned where on of the spouses is maybe quite a bit younger, so when the other spouse is quite a bit younger, it pulls down the pension amount that the primary person would receive. So to offset that a little bit, we might recommend, “Well, hey, instead of doing a hundred percent survivor benefit on the pension, let’s do a 50% so that you can have a higher pay out. But to offset that, what we’ll do is we’ll have you wait to take Social Security until 70.” So the pension amount that the spouse would receive would be less, but we can offset that waiting on Social Security a little bit and still have more income coming in the household.
Mark: Gotcha. Okay. All right. So a couple of different strategies there to consider and I think a lot of times people sometimes don’t plan ahead for that part. It’s like we’re sitting there talking about different, when you’re getting your retirement plan done, I think sometimes we look at it overall and say, “Well, we want to turn Social Security on as soon as we can and yada, yada yada.” Instead of saying, “Okay, how can we most maximize our Social Security for both of us in an overall inclusive retirement plan?”
Mark: So it’s certainly important to do. And as John mentioned, you know, they can run that Social Security maximization if you have some questions on that. If you want to get that done or have a chat with them, give them a call at (813) 286-7776 that’s (813) 286-7776 and you can also check them out online at pfgprivatewealth.com.
Mark: As I mentioned before, there are financial advisors here in the Tampa Bay area, so if you have some questions about that, again, as always when you’re listening to this show or any other show before you take any action, always check with a qualified professional about your specific situation because everybody’s, it can be so different, so make sure you have that chat.
Mark: All right guys, I think in the interest of time we can probably squeeze in a couple more things. Can you give us a few things to think about on divorced spousal situations?
John: Yeah, so it is important for people to understand that they are still eligible for a spousal benefit if they were married for 10 years and they are not remarried. So a scenario that we may see with that is they were previously married to a high earner, maybe they worked a lower paying job, they were married for 25 years, became divorced, they went back to work to cover expenses, et cetera. They may be in a relationship currently, but they’re not officially married and we kind of go through calculations and we determined that, “Hey, the spousal benefit that you could receive from you former spouse would be higher than the benefit that you would receive on your own and or higher than the benefit that you would receive if you were to marry your current partner.” And obviously a lot of other factors go into that.
John: But, from a purely financial decision, that could work out really well because again, you cannot collect that spousal benefit from a former spouse if you are remarried. We have had questions along the lines of, you know, “Hey, I was married twice. Both were over 10 years. Am I restricted to choose just the most recent one?” And the answer is no, you can pick the higher. We had a nice young lady one time that had four different ten year marriages and she asked if she could add them all up together and unfortunately you can’t, it’s just the higher.
Nick: But she had a lot of options.
John: Yeah. It’s good to have options.
Mark: Like window shopping apparently.
John: So, yeah. So those are a couple of things to keep in mind.
Nick: Yeah. And one question we get a lot with divorced clients, they say, “How soon can I draw on the ex-spouse’s Social Security?” And really you can draw on an ex-spouse once that ex-spouse hits age 62. Unlike a kind of a normal situation, when we wait until the spouse draws Social Security. They put this rule in really to protect the ex spouse because we’ve seen scenarios where certain people might delay drawing to intentionally hurt the other spouse and so they can’t draw on them. So basically the rule is once the ex-spouse hits over 62, you can actually start drawing on the spousal benefits for divorcees.
John: Yeah. It does not matter whether or not they’re collecting. And also some people are happy about this, some people are not. But when you do get that benefit from a former spouse, again it does not affect their own benefit. There is no negative impact to doing that to them.
Mark: They don’t even know about it.
Nick: They would have no idea. And it actually wouldn’t affect any new spouse for somebody. So we get that question quite a bit where it says, “Hey, an ex-spouse draws on my Social Security. Does that affect my new wife or husband?” The answer is no.
Mark: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. And there’s interesting on the time period on that, it’s funny that you kind of brought that up. My mother, who’s 78, actually was given that information and did a refile with the Social Security for her first husband. She was married twice as well. And so yes, she was able to do that and they hadn’t been married in like 40 years, but they were married over 10 years. So they were like, “Yep, that’s something you can do.” So I was like, “Okay, well knock yourself out.”
Mark: So yeah, it’s interesting. There’s definitely some few things to consider in there. Different kinds of a spousal benefit options, divorce spousal benefit options. So again, a lot of it comes down to having a conversation about your specific situation with your advisor when it comes to Social Security, because there are a lot of things in Social Security obviously, which is why we’re on a four part series, going to be a five part series actually around this.
Mark: So with that said, I think we’re going to depart this week on the program. I’ll say John and Nick, thanks for your time. As always, we appreciate it. Folks, make sure you reach out to them, give them a call if you’ve got some questions at (813) 286-7776. (813) 286-7776, again, that number to call. And as always, make sure you subscribe to the podcast. Retirement Planning Redefined. You can find it on Apple, Google or Spotify.
Mark: You can also just find it on their website at pfgprivatewealth.com and as I said at the beginning of this, that it was prior to Thanksgiving when we were taping this. Now we’ll actually air it after Thanksgiving. So we certainly hope that everybody had a great holiday season. And we’ll see you for more of our conversation around Social Security through the month of December, right here on Retirement Planning Redefined. For John, for Nick, we’ll see you next time.