Changes to Social Security will eliminate a few strategies that allow some recipients to maximize benefits.  The first change applies to the “file and suspend” strategy which allowed couples to maximize their combined benefits by having one spouse file for Social Security upon reaching full retirement age(currently 66), then immediately suspending the benefits. This allowed the other spouse to claim spousal benefit while their deferred Social Security grew 8 percent per year until age 70.   The file and suspend strategy will no longer work after May 1, 2016. At that time, a person must file for Social Security and actually receive benefits in order for a husband or wife to get a spousal benefit.

Another change will eliminate “restricted applications”, a mechanism that allows persons who are between full retirement age 66 and age 70 to file an application to claim spousal benefits but defer collecting their own benefits upon reaching 70, they change from receiving spousal benefit to receiving their own larger benefits.

In the future, when a spouse filled anytime after age 62, he or she will fall under the “deemed filing” rule, which already applies to people who are not at their full retirement age.  “If you are under your full retirement age (and file), Social Security says you are deemed to have taken your own benefit.  With the elimination of restricted applications and the introduction of deemed filing for all age, a spouse can only receive the larger of either their spousal benefit or their own benefit. They can’t change there choice either, which means no deferring benefit until age 70 and then switching options for a larger monthly check.