Social Security News and Updates

Born on or Before January 1, 1954? You May Be Able to Benefit From Social Security’s Restricted Filing

by Alli Thomas

Jul 14, 2020

If you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you’ll want to read this.

Before 2016, married couples were able to maximize their benefits using a strategy called “file and suspend.” With this approach, after one spouse claimed their benefit, the other spouse could claim one half of their spouse’s full retirement age (FRA) benefit while simultaneously accruing delayed retirement credits on their own Social Security record. In simple terms, it allowed both spouses to accrue delayed credits while one of them received Social Security spousal benefits.

A law that was passed in 2015 did away with this strategy. However, another approach known as restricted filing remains, though it is available only to those born on or before January 1, 1954.


What is Restricted Filing?

Restricted Filing allows you to collect a spousal benefit if you have reached FRA and still earn delayed retirement credits, but only if your spouse is also collecting their benefit.

The major advantage of doing a restricted filing is to allow the spouse who delayed their benefits to increase them by up to 32% if they wait until age 70 to file.

This strategy will also produce the highest possible survivor benefit to the spouse who outlives the other spouse.


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How to See If You Qualify for Restricted Filing

Here are the main rules for Restricted Filing:

  1. You must have been born on or before January 1, 1954.
  2. You must be the current or former spouse.
  3. You must have reached FRA.
  4. You must be eligible to receive your own retirement benefit.
  5. Your spouse must be receiving their benefit.

If you’re an ex-spouse, you don’t have to wait until your former spouse collects their benefit to do this. As long as you were married to them for at least 10 years and have been divorced for at least two years, you can file a restricted application for spousal benefits as long as you yourself have not remarried.

Even if you do qualify for restricted filing, be aware that you may only be eligible for a reduced spousal benefit. This may be the case if, among other circumstances, your spouse has chosen to suspend their own benefit.


When Should I File If I Qualify?

Every year you don’t take advantage of Restricted Filing is a year that you missed out on receiving spousal benefits. If you qualify, you generally should apply as soon as possible.

However, there may be better ways to optimize your Social Security benefits. One of the challenges with making decisions regarding your benefits is that in most cases, once you’ve made up your mind, there are no do-overs and you must live with the results of your choices for the rest of your life!

The permanency of Social Security choices is another reason why developing a comprehensive retirement plan together with an experienced financial advisor is so important. If you’re wondering whether doing a restricted filing is a good idea, consider getting a second opinion before committing to it. Talk with one of our advisors at no cost and with no obligation by clicking here.

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Alli Thomas

Alli Thomas has worked in the financial services industry for nearly 20 years, with a focus on retirement-related investing. She began her career as a FINRA-licensed participant-services call-center associate at Vanguard, and then moved to Principal Financial Group, where she worked closely with employers, assisting with retirement plan set-up and design, selecting appropriate plan investment offerings, and maximizing employee participation through targeted education campaigns and enrollment meetings. Alli has also worked as a qualified 401(k) administrator and registered investment advisor for several small investment firms. She now writes about all things investment- and finance-related, leveraging her extensive experience and passion for retirement planning to help investors make well-informed financial decisions.

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