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These are questions and answers from the April 23 webinar, “Are You Missing Strategic Benefits from Social Security”, including questions not addressed due to time constraints.

Q1: How often can you switch from spousal to your own benefits?
Once you are over full retirement age (FRA) and eligible to file a restricted application for your spousal benefit, you have to keep that benefit until you are ready to file for your own benefit. Once you file for your own benefit you cannot revert to the spousal benefit if your own benefit is higher. Switching from spousal to your own benefit is possible if you take benefits before your FRA, but the concept behind doing this is quite complex. We recommend you receive a Social Security analysis before making decisions about whether to take your own or a spousal benefit.

Q2: What about same sex marriage? What if the couple did not get a marriage certificate from the state?
If the same sex couple lives in a state that recognizes same sex marriage, they, like any other married couple, are eligible for spousal (and eventually survivor) benefits after they have been married for one year. If they are in a state that does not recognize same sex marriage, they are not, as of now, eligible for spousal benefits.

Q3: My husband is two years younger than I am. If I wanted to take the spousal benefit at my full retirement age (FRA), how would that work, since his FRA is later?
Q4: Can I take a spousal benefit before my husband takes his full benefit? I am older than he is.

It is possible to take the spousal benefit at your FRA before your spouse reaches his; HOWEVER, there are specific ways you would need to apply for it, and there are strong penalties for doing so, which you should not overlook. This may or may not be the most optimal strategy for you, depending on a number of factors and the details of your Social Security benefits. Without knowing all the details, the short answer is: it depends.

Q5: Can each spouse receive spousal benefits against the other’s SS benefit?
Either spouse is eligible to take a spousal benefit given the appropriate scenario, but both spouses cannot take the spousal benefit simultaneously. Typically our analysis covers multiple scenarios including all strategies for spousal benefits—leading to the most optimal scenario.

Q6: How can one get a Social Security Analysis? Will the Social Security Administration do it, or is this a feature of financial planning?
Social Security Analysis is one of the financial planning services at Bell Investment Advisors. Given the complexities of timing your benefits, we strongly recommend having an experienced professional who is well informed help you review your Social Security benefit options. We can perform an analysis that explores the options and provides customized recommendations optimal for you. The Social Security Administration (SSA) does not provide this type of service. The representatives at the SSA are able to help you apply for benefits; however, they cannot recommend an optimal strategy, nor do they have a clear understanding of your unique needs and goals. We recommend having the analysis completed with a financial planner before going to the SSA to apply for your benefits. Please contact us if you would like a conversation with a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNERTM at Bell Investment Advisors to see if a Social Security analysis is right for you: 510.433.1066 or 1.800.700.0089.85

Have questions or want to learn more about your own Social Security benefits? Contact us to request a Social Security consultation.

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April 2014

Are You Missing Strategic Benefits from Social Security?

Download the Podcast

Laurent Harrison, CFP®
Investment Advisor, Financial Planner
Rohan Nayak, CFP®
Relationship Manager, Financial Planner

Don’t miss out on money that could be yours. Webinar topics include:

  • Collecting Social Security too early can cost you thousands in lifetime benefits.
  • Applying for spousal benefits can be like finding a whole new nest egg.
  • Understanding the ten-year rule is important if you want to apply for Social Security when you are widowed or divorced.

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