What Percentage Of All Retirees Receive The Maximum Age 70 Benefit?

Today’s column addresses questions about how many people wait till 70 to file, when checks from Social Security are posted, when you can file for retirement benefits after a restricted application for spousal benefits only, filing and suspending and spousal benefits before retirement benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, which markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.


What Percentage Of All Retirees Receive The Maximum Age 70 Benefit?

Hi Larry, I was wondering if you cold help settle a bet. I say that at least a third of recipients have waited until to 70 to file but a friends says it’s not even close and that nowhere near that many people wait that long to file. What do you say? Thanks, Charles

Hi Charles, I understand that only around 4% of people wait until 70 to claim their retirement benefits and I’m sure that only a low percentage of those individuals paid the maximum amount of Social Security taxes in every dd leading up to when they turned 70. So I think it’s safe to conclude that quite a few recipients actually receive the maximum possible 70 rate.

I should point out, though, the there is no actual “maximum” Social Security benefit. Benefit rates can be recalculated following any year in which a person has Social Security covered earnings, so a person could keep working until they’re over 100 years old and potentially continue to increase their benefit rate every year. You can use one of my company’s programs — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to fully explore all of your options for maximizing benefits for you and your wife. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry


Will I Get My First Payment In The Month I Turn 70, Or The Following Month?

Hi Larry, When I filed and suspended my benefits prior to 4/29?2016, I was told that benefits will start automatically at 70. Will my benefits get paid the month I’ll reach 70 or the following month? Thanks, Howard

Hi Howard, Unless your birthday is on the 1st of a month, you should receive your first payment in the month after the month you turn 70. Social Security pays benefits a month behind, so the payment you receive in the month after the month you turn 70 is actually payment for the month you turn 70. Social Security considers a person to have reached their next age on the day prior to their birthday, though. So if you happen to have been born on the first day of a month, you’d get your first payment in your birth month. Best, Larry


If My Husband Files A Restricted Application For Spousal Benefits, Does He Have To Wait Until 70 To File For His Own Benefits?

Hi Larry, I am 64 and 4 months. My husband will turn 66 in November. Since I only work a minimal amount at this time, it appears it might be more advantageous for me to file for my Social Security retirement benefit now and my husband to file a restricted application for spousal benefits. If he does file the restricted application, does he have to wait until 70 in order to file for his full retirement benefits or can he do it at any time. Thanks, Cheryl

Hi Cheryl, If your husband starts out just his drawing spousal benefits, he’d be free to file for his own Social Security retirement benefits at any time. He does not need to wait till 70. Best, Larry


Can I File And Suspend And Could My Wife Then Receive Half Of My Benefit Rate?

Hi Larry, Your books and other writings on Social Security have been most helpful to me. I had thought that due to the law changes, the file and suspend strategy would not be right for us. However, I recently read about a case that made me question my original assumptions.

My wife was born in 12/1953. She does not have sufficient work history for her own Social Security retirement benefit. I was born in 3/1955. When I reach full retirement age at 66 and 2 months or so, may I still be able to file and suspend, and have her draw her spousal benefits based on my account until I file for my retirement benefit at 70? Thanks, Jim

Hi Jim, You could file for and suspend your Social Security retirement benefits when you reach your full retirement age (FRA) of 66 and 2 months, i.e. May 2021, however, your wife could not be paid spousal benefits for as long as your retirement benefits are suspended. Best, Larry


What Happens When My Wife Turns 70?

Hi LarryI took Social Security retirement benefits at 66 and my benefit is about $2,80 per month. My wife took her spousal benefit at 66 for about $1,400. Her retirement benefit would have been $950. What happens when she turns 70? Will her benefit remain at the $1400 rate? Thanks, Joseph

Hi Joseph, It sounds like nothing will change when your wife reaches 70. Assuming that she filed a restricted application for just spousal benefits and not for her own Social Security retirement benefits, she could potentially switch to her own benefits at 70 if her own rate was higher than her spousal rate. However, if her full retirement age rate, or primary insurance amount (PIA), is $950, her age 70 retirement rate would only be roughly $1,250 (i.e. 32% higher than her PIA). Therefore, based on the rates cited in your question, your wife would appear to be better off if she simply continues to draw spousal benefits. Best, Larry


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