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Columns: Dr. Don
Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, CFP   Expert: Don Taylor, Ph.D., CFA, CFP
Ask Dr. Don
Choice could cut Social Security income
Ask Dr. Don

Wife may pay for taking early benefit
 

Dear Dr. Don,
If my wife elects to begin receiving Social Security benefits on her own account at age 62 (2008), will she still be eligible to receive one-half of my Social Security benefits when I retire at age 66 in 2012?
-- Steve Social

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Dear Steve,
She will be eligible to receive a portion of your benefit when you file for retirement, but not the full 50 percent. The Social Security Web site answers your question in its FAQ pages. Here is that reply:

Question: Can my spouse collect benefits at age 62 from her work and earnings and then receive a combined total up to 50 percent from my account when I start receiving benefits at age 65?

Answer: Your wife can start receiving reduced retirement benefits on her own record at age 62. If the amount she receives on her own record is less than what she would be entitled to as a spouse, she would receive a higher spouse's benefit when you start receiving benefits. However, because she began receiving Social Security before reaching full retirement age, she will receive a reduced benefit rate that is less than the full 50 percent amount for as long as she remains entitled to spouse's benefits.

Another FAQ on the Social Security Web site helps us estimate how your wife's spousal benefits are affected:

A spouse receives one-half of the retired worker's full benefit unless the spouse begins collecting benefits before full retirement age. In that case, the amount of the spouse's benefit is permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months before he or she reaches full retirement age.

The example below is based on the full retirement age of 65.

If a spouse begins collecting benefits:
At age 64, the benefit amount would be about 46 percent of the retired worker's full benefit.
At age 63, it would be about 42 percent.
At age 62 it would be 37.5 percent.

Since your full retirement age is 66, these numbers are only approximations. You can work with your local Social Security office to get exact figures.

Bankrate.com's corrections policy -- Posted: Oct. 23, 2007
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