Making Sense of the Social Security Kill Bill

Retirement Concept Social Security BenefitsEarly this November, Congress surprised many when they introduced the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 causing Financial Advisors to revisit ways to maximize cumulative Social Security benefits for their clients. With the passing of this budget deal, we see the end to two Social Security claiming strategies that have benefited many individuals – File and Suspend and the Restricted Application.

The new rules for File and Suspend will take effect with all applications filed after April 30, 2016. We will see the end of filing a Restricted Application for anyone who is turning 62 after December 31, 2015. This leaves a 6 month window for clients to review their situation with their financial advisor to determine how the changes will affect them, and if they can still take advantage of these strategies before they go away.

The File and Suspend strategy was commonly used by married couples to allow one spouse to begin collecting their spousal benefit at full retirement age while allowing the higher earning spouse to delay and then maximize their own benefit at age 70. Under the new rules, any suspension application filed after April 30, 2016 will also suspend all dependent and/or spousal benefits that would have been paid off of the suspended record. In other words, a worker must now collect their own benefit in order to trigger benefits for their spouse or dependents.

Restricted Applications for spousal benefits were often filed by couples who both wanted to delay collecting their own benefits while taking advantage of a spousal benefit in the meantime. The new rules now state that anyone turning 62 in 2016 or later will no longer be eligible to file a restricted application when they reach full retirement age. Individuals who will be 62 by the end of 2015 will remain eligible to file a restricted application when full retirement age is attained. The caveat – if this strategy depends on one spouse filing and suspending after April 30, 2016, the strategy will not work and further planning with your advisor may be beneficial.

For Example: Mark and Mary are both 63 and remain eligible to file a restricted application for spousal benefits at full retirement age. Mark wants to delay collecting his benefits until age 70. However, he will turn 66 after April 30, 2016 at which point the option to file and suspend is no longer available and spousal benefits will no longer be paid off a suspended benefit. Mark will either have to take his own benefit at age 66 to give Mary the option to file a restricted application for spousal benefits, or Mary will have to forego her spousal benefit allowing Mark to delay his own benefit and vice versa.

Individuals fortunate enough to have already implemented these strategies will not see a change to their current benefits. On the other hand, individuals born after 1953 will be unable to take advantage of either claiming strategy and are encouraged along with anyone who will be 62 by the end of 2015 or 66 before April 30, 2016 to meet with their financial advisor to determine the most optimal claiming strategy before the window closes.

Source: Savvy Social Security Planning for Boomers, Social Security ‘Loopholes’ Closing

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