Social Security Q&A: Will Sequencing Benefits Be Considered Aggressive and So Be Penalized?Commentary by Laurence Kotlikoff
October 06, 2014
Social Security may be your largest or one of your largest assets. How you manage it, by deciding which benefits to collect and when, can make an absolutely huge difference to your lifetime benefits. And those with the highest past covered earnings have the most to gain from maximizing their Social Security.
I’ve been answering questions and writing columns about Social Security each week for the past two years on PBS NEWSHOUR’s website. The editors at Forbes asked me to post a Q&A each day from those columns. To see all my columns, please go to my software company’s site, www.maximizemysocialsecurity.com, and click More Press below the WSJ quote.
Today’s question asks if a claiming strategy that first files for one benefit and later files for another might be considered “aggressive” and subsequently be disallowed. The answer reviews the scope of proposed changes in context as well as the likelihood of those changes passing.
Question: I am a 60-year-old widow. My late husband had a much higher primary insurance amount, so I had been planning to file on my own account at 62 and file for survivors benefits at my full retirement age of 66.
But in light of the ominous phrase in the president’s budget proposal, I am now worried that this might be considered an “aggressive” strategy and perhaps I would be penalized after the fact. I would appreciate your insights. Should I just plan to wait until 66?
Answer: President Barack Obama’s budget proposal seems to be about filing and suspending by married or divorced spouses (with living exes). So I don’t think it will affect you if it’s passed, and that’s a big “if.” So stick with your strategy, but check to make sure it’s actually best.