Dear Senior Living Adviser,
I have been married 36 years, and I am 66 years old today. I would like to know if my wife, when she reaches her full retirement age of 66 and 4 months, will collect half of my full retirement-age benefit or half of my benefit when I file at 70. She is 8 years younger than me.
— Joseph Juxtaposition

Seniors working on budget in the kitchen © iStock

Dear Joseph,
Happy (belated) birthday! Great question. Your wife is eligible for a spousal benefit equal to half of your primary insurance amount when she reaches her full retirement age. The spousal benefit doesn’t increase with the delayed retirement credits you earn if you wait to file until age 70.

Should you die before her, she will benefit from the delayed retirement credits you earn in the form of a higher survivors benefit. Given the difference in your ages, it makes a lot of sense to wait to receive benefits at age 70, because of that higher benefit and your joint life expectancies.

She’s young enough that a file-and-suspend strategy isn’t going to help with her benefits since she’s not eligible for a reduced spousal benefit until age 62, which is around the time that you turn 70. File-and-suspend is when you file for Social Security benefits and, at the same time, suspend those benefits.

One reason to do that is for a spouse to qualify to receive a spousal benefit based on your work record.

That said, a file-and-suspend strategy may still make sense for you because you’ll earn your delayed retirement credits. But, if some financial emergency comes up, you can receive the suspended benefits and reinstate the monthly retirement benefit. However, this eliminates the delayed retirement credits.

If you participate in a high-deductible health care plan and are 65 or older, 1 downside to a file-and-suspend strategy is that the filer is no longer eligible to contribute to a health savings account, or HSA. That’s because you’re automatically enrolled in Medicare Part A when you apply for Social Security benefits, and people on Medicare Part A can’t contribute to an HSA.

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