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My Mother is 64 and my Father is 69. He gets SS benefits, however my mother did not work enough to get any. Just found out that she could have applied for spousal benefits when she turned 62. Can she apply now and get 2 yrs of back pay from 62 to now?

Oct 21, 2012 by Abe from Lewistown, MD in  |  Flag
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Michael Level 12

Abe - As mentioned previously your mother can't go back and get the last 2 years and she is eligible for more benefits today, but it's worth at least considering the potential benefit of waiting longer as well. If both of your parents are in good health and there is a family history of extreme longevity, waiting for a higher starting benefit could be to your parents long term advantage.

Our experience is that the local Social Security employees are very helpful and will answer any direct questions. They will not provide in depth planning but will be helpful in getting the maximum benefit that fits your parents situation. Knowing what to ask is important when dealing with the SSA. I'd recommend having your parents call and schedule an appointment with the local SSA office to get the most accurate numbers so they can make an informed decision.

Some questions to ask are:

What is your mother's current benefit she is eligible to receive?

What is the maximum benefit she can receive and when?

What is the breakeven date? (How long will both of your parents need to live to make waiting for a higher benefit beneficial)

Michael Carignan

Comment   |  Flag   |  Oct 26, 2012 from Jacksonville, FL

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This is an excellent question. Many people aren’t familiar with Social Security spousal benefits, and the rule surrounding them can be a bit confusing. As several others have already explained, your mother probably can’t get benefits retroactively or at least for a limited period of time. However, by waiting to claim benefits, she’ll qualify for a larger benefit. If your mother can afford to put off claiming benefits until her full retirement age (age 66, if she was born between 1943 and 1954) she’ll receive 50% of your father’s Social Security benefit. If she claims before then, her monthly benefit will be smaller.

You can visit the Social Security website (www.socialsecurity.gov) to get more information on spousal benefits. You may also find it helpful for your parents to schedule an appointment with a financial planner who offers Social Security planning services. He or she will be familiar with all the different Social Security rules and can walk your parents through different scenarios to determine the best option for them.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Nov 15, 2012 from Township of Anderson, OH

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While your mom can't go back the two years to collect, her benefit will be larger at age 64 than it would have been at age 62. It will continue to increase until her full retirement age of 66. I hope that is helpful to you. Helen

Comment   |  Flag   |  Oct 22, 2012 from Fort Worth, TX

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Jim Blankenship Level 17

No, your mother can't go back and receive retroactive benefits for two years, the look-back is generally limited to 6 months. They can either call SSA on their toll-free line or visit the local SSA office to apply for her spousal benefit.

Realize that if she files for the Spousal Benefit now, it will be less than 50% of your father's age 66 benefit. If she delays to her Full Retirement Age of 66, she'll get the full 50% of his benefit (when he was age 66 plus COLAs). It's probably in her best interest to go ahead and file now though, assuming that your parents will have an average life-span.

Hope this helps!


Comment   |  Flag   |  Oct 22, 2012 from New Berlin, IL

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Good suggestions from the other posts. I want to point out the different benefit amounts received at the different ages are equivalent after adjusting for life expectancy and interest. So don't worry about 'missing out' if you choose to delay which may be a wise move. Another spousal benefit is if your father passes before your mother, she will begin to receive his full benefit amount. Finally, Social Security is payable for life and the benefits are inflation adjusted each year.

Comment   |  Flag   |  Nov 18, 2012 from Western Springs, IL

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