This month’s post is a short, but potentially important follow up note on Social Security benefits. Last November, I wrote to make sure my readers were aware of the fact that Social Security “file and suspend” strategies were being significantly altered. Essentially they were eliminated for the vast majority of future Social Security recipients.
However, there is a short window where those who are already 66 may use a file and suspend filing. The Social Security office recently made an announcement clarifying a short window this spring during which those who have reached this age may file.
We relay their announcement in case it helps you by discussing:
- New Social Security File and Suspend Guidelines
- Watch out for Difficulties in Filing
New Social Security File and Suspend Guidelines
For a good summary of who may still use file and suspend, please see the article at http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20160219/FREE/160219920/social-security-issues-new-file-and-suspend-guidelines.
Some key details:
- There is a short window where if you have not yet filed using this approach, you still may do so. If you are already 66, you have until April 29, 2016 to file for your own benefit, and then suspend them, allowing others to file for benefits based on your record. You could allow your own benefit to grow while they do so.
- If you are not already 66, this window would not apply to you and you would not have this option. However, according to Garrett’s resident Social Security expert, Jim Blankenship, “anyone born on or before April 30, 1950 is considered to be at full retirement age during the entire month of April, 2016, so even if born on April 30, 1950 the filer should be in good shape if they want to use this provision.”
- In addition, the filer who requests a suspension prior to April 30, 2016 can in the future ask that benefits are reinstated as of any date after the suspension request, up to the present date (lump-sum retro payment).
- The official deadline of April 29 is one day earlier than originally announced.
Watch out for Difficulties in Filing
The fact that Social Security has announced these guidelines gives some hope that their personnel are clear on all the changes.
Having said that, please be aware that if you go to Social Security to make the April deadline, you may encounter issues. Earlier in the year, press indicated that filers were having difficulty in using a file and suspend strategy while they still could. Even those who met the guidelines just described were being told they could not file in this manner at all. (Please see http://www.investmentnews.com/article/20160217/BLOG05/160219941/some-local-social-security-administration-offices-refuse-to-process.) Postings within the Garrett Planning Network indicate that some of our clients have experienced issues as well.
So please go prepared and do not be surprised if all does not go smoothly. You may need to go up the foodchain at Social Security. As an alternative, Mary Beth Franklin, another Social Security expert, recommends filing on-line at the Administration’s website at https://ssa.gov/. Apparently this is one situation where automation can pay off!