retirement

Time to take spouse's Social Security benefits?

Don TaylorDear Retirement Adviser,
Here is a question that no one else seems to be able to answer: If my spouse takes Social Security benefits based on her own record at age 62, even though her full retirement age is 66, will she get the full spousal benefit when we both file for spousal benefits at our actual full retirement ages? I believe her payment would be half of my own benefit.

Thanks,
-- John Jump-start

Dear John,
It's actually not that difficult a question. When a spouse files for Social Security benefits before her full retirement age, her benefits are typically based on her work record. If she also qualifies for a spousal benefit and that benefit is more than what's based on her work record, then she receives a combination of the two benefits for a total equal to the spousal benefit.

Among married couples, when one or both spouses file for benefits prior to their full retirement age, neither can opt for a particular benefit. Also, they can't switch to a different benefit at full retirement age.

If your wife waits until her full retirement age to claim benefits, she can choose to receive full spousal benefits while earning delayed retirement credits on her work record until age 70. While you can choose to "file and suspend" at your full retirement age to earn delayed retirement credits based on your work record, you both cannot receive a spousal benefit.

I hope that helps!

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