New Social Security rules end key filing strategy.

New rules may affect your benefits during retirement.

New rules about how you can claim Social Security benefits took effect on May 1, 2016. They signal the end of two benefit-claiming strategies that were frequently used together: file-and-suspend and filing a restricted claim of spousal benefits. These new rules may affect how much money you receive during retirement.

What are these claiming strategies, and how have they worked?

Combining file-and-suspend with restricted spousal benefits made it possible for many couples to significantly increase their lifetime retirement income.

Providing that both individuals were age 66 or older, one would apply for benefits and then postpone (“suspend”) receiving them until a later date, while the other would file an application to collect a spousal benefit based on the earnings of the first person—even if the second person’s own benefit would have been higher.

Combining these strategies enabled both individuals to take advantage of delayed retirement credits (DRC)—which increase each individual’s benefit payment by 6%—8% for each year retirement is delayed (up to age 70)—while simultaneously receiving a payment from Social Security.

Who is affected by the new Social Security rules?
  • The rules affect individuals filing for Social Security benefits on or after May 1, 2016. Benefits may still be suspended between ages 66 and 70 to earn DRCs; however, spousal benefits generally can no longer be collected while the primary benefit is suspended.
  • Individuals younger than 62 on December 31, 2015, will not be permitted to collect spousal benefits only. If they are eligible for both their own benefit and a spousal benefit, they will be automatically filed for both benefits at the same time and will receive the higher of the two.
  • Divorced spouses younger than 62 on December 31, 2015, will not be able to collect spousal benefits while taking advantage of DRCs on their own benefits.

Who can still take advantage of these strategies?

The new Social Security measures took effect on May 1, 2016. It’s important to note: Those already using these strategies will be grandfathered in, and will experience no changes to their benefits.

Is it time to rethink your retirement plans?

While Social Security benefits can provide a solid base, the bulk of your retirement income will likely come from personal savings, investments, and employer-sponsored retirement plans. When planning for retirement, it’s important to consider all potential sources of income and estimate how much you can expect each to provide.

Social Security is a complex and important part of any retirement strategy. To make the most of your retirement, you should consult a financial professional. For a no-cost, no-obligation consultation, simply use the “Talk it through with an expert” tab, and an agent in your area will contact you.

Please note that New York Life Insurance Company and its agents do not provide legal or tax advice. Consult your legal or tax advisor to find out how the general information in this article may or may not apply to your personal circumstances.


Talk it through with an expert.

We're here to help.

Get Started
Further Reading