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Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about spousal benefits after taking early retirement benefits, who will and who won’t get the 5.9% COLA and when survivor’s benefits can be available. 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.

Can My Wife Get Half Of My Social Security Retirement Benefit Rate?

Hi Larry, My wife was born in 1949, She began her retirement benefit on her work record at 62. I began mine at 70 last month Her benefit is less than one half of mine. Can she get half of my amount now? Would she need to file a restricted application to do so? Thanks, Tom

Hi. She can’t file a restricted application for spousal benefits if she’s already drawing your own benefits, nor can she stop collecting her own benefits and apply for spousal benefits instead.

If your wife applies for spousal benefits, her spousal rate would be calculated by subtracting her full primary insurance amount (PIA), not her reduced benefit rate, from 50% of your PIA. So your wife could only qualify for additional spousal benefits if your PIA is more than twice as much as her own PIA. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA). Best, Larry

If I Start Drawing Benefits In January 2023 Will I Receive The Upcoming 5.9% Cost Of Living Increase?

Hi Larry, So if I turned 62 in January I would not get the 5.9% increase I’d get if I file for benefits at 62? If I wait until January 2023, would my estimated benefit be increased by 5.9% plus an 8% increase by waiting until 63 to take benefits? Thanks, Matt


Hi Matt, Since you turned 62 after January 1 2022, you won’t receive the upcoming 5.9% cost of living (COLA) increase no matter when you start drawing your Social Security retirement benefits. You will be credited with all future COLAs that occur after you turn 62 though, but the first COLA after that won’t happen until at least December 2022.

If you wait until January 2023 to start drawing your benefits, then a smaller reduction percentage will be applied to your benefit rate, but that wouldn’t amount to as much as an 8% increase. 8% is the annual increase caused by delayed retirement credits (DRCs), which can only be earned between a person’s full retirement age (FRA) and 70. The actual difference between your age 62 and age 63 amounts would be less than 8%.

You 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

Is My Mom Eligible To A Widow’s Benefit?

Hi Larry, My dad died in 2015 and he was not on Social Security. He would be 60 this September. Would my mom be eligible to receive a widow’s benefit based on my deceased fathers Social Security record? Thanks, Henry

Hi Henry, I’m sorry for your loss. These are the requirements for Social Security widow’s benefits: 1) The deceased worker paid into Social Security long enough to be insured for survivor benefits; and, 2) The widow is at least age 60, or at least age 50 and disabled; and, 3) The widow is not drawing a higher Social Security benefit based on their own earnings history; and, 4) The widow is unmarried, or if married they married at age 60 or later; and, 5) The widow’s marriage to the deceased ended in death and lasted for at least 9 months, unless an exception or alternate requirement applies.

If she meets these requirements, she can be eligible for widow’s benefits. If she applies and SSA finds that she’s not eligible for some reason, there’s no penalty for applying. Best, Larry


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