Question on the new Social Security claiming rules

I am age 65 (DOB 10/01/1950) and my wife is 63 (DOB 10/23/1952). Prior to the November 2 changes to the Social Security law, our preferred plan had been for my wife to claim her benefit in June 2016, followed by my restricted filing in September 2016 (my full retirement age) for a spousal benefit. This would allow my own benefit to grow for 4 years until I claim it at age 70. Under the new law, my understanding is that this strategy is still viable for us since we are grandfathered because of our ages. However, the Nov. 16 article "Social Security: Do you need to change your filing strategy?" on Vanguard.com adds this wrinkle:
"If you're already 62 or are turning 62 this year, you'll still be able to file a restricted application to receive only spousal benefits at your full retirement age, provided your spouse is either receiving or has filed for and suspended benefits within 180 days of the law's enactment."
Does this mean that my wife cannot wait until June to file, but must claim prior to May 2016 (180 days from Nov. 2, 2015) in order for me to to be allowed to file for my restricted spousal benefit at age 66? (If so, my ability to claim the spousal benefit is well worth the small reduction in my wife's monthly payout if she has to file a couple of months earlier than planned. I just don't want to risk missing an important deadline!)
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On Tuesday, December 29, 2015 at 6:50:04 AM UTC-8, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

Not quite unaffected. There were two changes: One -- if you file-and-suspend, nobody may claim spousal benefits anymore on your suspended benefits. If you want your wife to collect spousal benefits, you need to file *and* collect -- meaning that you need to decide which is more important -- spousal benefits or the increase in your benefit you get from delaying. This change affects anyone born after May 1, 1950 -- so it affects you.
And two -- for the one potentially claiming spousal benefits -- one may no longer wait until full retirement age and then select the lower of the two benefits and then switch to the higher one at age 70. (This was called "deeming"). This change affects those born on or after Jan 1, 1954. So this change does *not* affect you guys.

That's the second rule I noted -- so long as you are collecting benefits, she may file a restricted application for the lower of her benefits and then switch to the other benefit when she turns 70.

Her restricted filing deadline is based on when *you* apply for your benefits -- but you must be collecting benefits -- not delaying -- in order for her to collect those spousal benefits.
The truth is that without walking through the actual numbers for you guys -- your earnings histories, ages, expected future earnings (if any), and -- most importantly (and unfortunately impossible to really know) -- what dates of death to use for the model -- without all that information, it's impossible to truly optimize your benefits.
We use sophisticated software to model all that (and factor it all in with a family's entire financial picture) in order to make recommendations -- but even than, we still usually run multiple scenarios with varying dates of death (both young, one old/one young, vice-versa, and both old). However, unless (a) the family doesn't have enough assets to cover costs while delaying; or (b) we have reason to think one or both will die young -- we usually prefer to err on the side of assuming both will live to ripe old ages (i.e., over 90).
If you're not certain about how those rules apply, I strongly encourage you to either use one of the online modeling systems -- and/or consult with a qualified fee-only *hourly* financial planner. (Not many planners will do one-off or hourly work -- most require you to turn over assets for ongoing management -- but there are planners who do this kind of thing.)
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David, thank you for responding.
Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but it seems to me that your answer supposes the reverse of what I am planning. To reiterate, we'd like to:
1) Have my WIFE file, at age 63, for her own REGULAR Social Security benefit sometime prior to September 2016. 2) Have ME file, at age 66, for my restricted SPOUSAL benefit in September 2016. 3) Have ME file, at age 70, for my own REGULAR benefit in September 2020.
(Note that we are NOT consider any scenario involving filing and suspending.)
My question is simply whether it's OK for my wife to claim her regular benefit as late as August 2016, or instead MUST she claim by April 2016 (i.e., within 180 days from Nov. 2, 2015) for this plan to work?
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David, thank you for responding.
Perhaps I am misunderstanding, but it seems to me that your answer supposes the reverse of what I am planning. To reiterate, we'd like to:
1) Have my WIFE file, at age 63, for her own REGULAR Social Security benefit sometime prior to September 2016. 2) Have ME file, at age 66, for my restricted SPOUSAL benefit in September 2016. 3) Have ME file, at age 70, for my own REGULAR benefit in September 2020.
(Note that we are NOT consider any scenario involving filing and suspending.)
My question is simply whether it's OK for my wife to claim her regular benefit as late as August 2016, or instead MUST she claim by April 2016 (i.e., within 180 days from Nov. 2, 2015) for this plan to work?
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On Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 8:20:05 AM UTC-8, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote:

You're exactly right. That is the reverse of what I'd walked through .
It appears that your strategy is *not* affected by the changes in the law. The 180 day time limit you quoted above doesn't appear to apply to you -- it appears to apply only to those exercising the file-and-suspend strategy (which they had 180 days from the law's enactment to utilize).
Read the sentence you quoted this way (I've added parens to show what I mean):
"If you're already 62 or are turning 62 this year, you'll still be able to file a restricted application to receive only spousal benefits at your full retirement age, provided your spouse is either (receiving) or (has filed for and suspended benefits within 180 days of the law's enactment)."
Since you're not using file-and-suspend, the timing with respect to the law's enactment isn't relevant -- your ages grandfather you into the ability to do the restricted application, and the new rule only says that in order for you to do the restricted application, your wife will have to be collecting -- not suspending -- her benefits.

So long as she's claiming her own benefits -- regardless of when she starts them -- you'll be able to collect restricted spousal benefits so long as you are over your full retirement age when you do.
I do still encourage you to run your numbers through one of the optimizing software packages. But it looks like your plan is okay.
Note please that this is *not* full financial planning advice - and only for educational purposes - I encourage you to read carefully and, if necessary, engage a professional to review your situation in full.
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