April 13, 2016. By Olga P. Okaty, CFP®, Director of Financial Planning:
As you may have read in our Financial Planning Update last December, a very popular Social Security claiming strategy known as “file-and-suspend” is expiring next month, and the filing deadline to utilize this strategy is April 29th, 2016.
The “file-and-suspend” strategy helps couples maximize their retirement and survivor benefits by allowing one member of a couple (at full retirement age) to file for benefits and then immediately suspend them, thereby unlocking the ability for their spouse to file for spousal benefits at full retirement age. The spouse may then file a restricted application to collect only spousal benefits for a couple of years, while both members of the couple delay their own retirement benefits until age 70 and earn delayed retirement credits (benefit increases) of 8% annually for each year they delay.
Anyone attaining the age of 66 on or before the April 29th deadline has the right to request to suspend their retirement benefits, thereby triggering benefits for a spouse. The spouse does not have to be full retirement age at the time the suspension is requested. However, to be able to file a restricted application for spousal benefits later on, at full retirement age, the spouse must have been born on or before January 1st, 1954, as the restricted application strategy will be phased out in 2019. Unmarried individuals who will reach full retirement age on or before the April 29th deadline but do not plan on collecting Social Security yet may also wish to consider file-and-suspend. This strategy would allow them to earn delayed retirement credits while also locking in the option to retroactively claim all benefits since the date of the original suspension, if they changed their mind later on.
A very important note on dates and birthdays: According to Social Security spokesman William Jarrett, “Social Security’s longstanding practice considers a person attains his or her age the day before his or her actual birthday. Therefore, a person whose birthday is on April 30 attains his or her age on April 29. The latest effective date of birth to fall under the current rules is April 30, 1950, and the person would have to submit his or her request for voluntary suspension by April 29th.”
With the April 29th deadline to file-and-suspend swiftly approaching, we wanted to reach out with this brief reminder for anyone considering utilizing this strategy. Please don’t hesitate to call or email us directly with any Social Security questions you may have.
 Franklin, Mary Beth. “Mass Confusion Over New Social Security Rules.” InvestmentNews.com. 4 Mar. 2016. Web. <http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20160304/BLOG05/160309955/mass-confusion-ov>.