Ask Bob: How far in advance of my full retirement age can I apply for Social Security?

A reader wants to know how far in advance of full retirement age she can apply for Social Security, and will waiting until age 70 provide she and her husband the highest benefit amount.
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Question

My husband's birthdate is December 14, 1955. He will be applying for Social Security at 66 and 2 months. When exactly should he make an application? Anytime in the previous three months?

My birthdate is September 27, 1957 and I plan on applying at age 70 so the deceased, whichever one of us that is, receives the larger amount. Is that correct thinking? Our benefits are pretty close at FRA (full retirement age) and age 70.

Answer

You are able to apply starting 3 months before the date at which your husband wants to file for his benefits, so 3 months prior to 2/14/2022, says Natalie Briaud Pine, CFP®, Managing Partner at Briaud Financial Advisors. “At the time of filing, you will want to let them know that February 14th is the date on which he wants to start his benefit so they don’t start it immediately.”

As far as your second question, she says, your thinking is correct. “The second to die receives only the larger benefit, not both, so it is important for you to maximize benefits to have the person with the higher benefit wait until 70 so that benefits lasts for your joint lives assuming you can afford to wait. If yours is the higher of the two or yours is the same as your husband’s, waiting until age 70 to take your benefit would be a good option.”

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Question

My husband's birthdate is December 14, 1955. He will be applying for Social Security at 66 and 2 months. When exactly should he make an application? Anytime in the previous three months?

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