Welcome to our “Social Security Q&A” series. You ask a question about Social Security, and a guest expert answers it.
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Today’s question comes from Tim:
“I have a question about spousal benefits. My wife just turned 62. Her full retirement age (FRA) benefit is approximately $265 a month. I am 58 and 100% disabled. I am collecting $2,200 in Social Security disability benefits.
If my wife started collecting her Social Security now at a 30% reduced rate, can she get half of my Social Security benefits in nine years, when I reach my FRA?”
No need to wait 9 years
Tim, your idea will not work given current Social Security rules. The rule that gets in your way is called the “deemed filing rule.” That is, the Social Security Administration deems that filing for one benefit means that you are filing for all benefits for which you are eligible.
In your wife’s case, when she turned 62, she became eligible for both her own retirement benefit and a spousal supplement based on your record. So, when she claims her retirement benefit, she will automatically receive a spousal supplement, whether or not she wants it at that time.
The only way for your wife to receive an amount equal to one-half of your benefit is for her to apply for benefits at her FRA of 66 years and 8 months. At that point, her retirement benefit would be $265, and her spousal supplement would equal $835, for a total of $1,100.
The good news here is that she does not need to wait nine years to receive this amount, as you suggested in your question. To qualify for the overall benefit of $1,100, she must be at her FRA. It is not necessary for you to have attained your FRA.
If your wife does claim at 62, she will experience an early claiming penalty on both her retirement benefit and her spousal supplement. Given your wife’s year of birth (1958), the early claiming penalty on her retirement benefit is 28.33%. For her spousal supplement, the penalty is 33.33%.
Accordingly, her age 62 retirement benefit would be about $190 while her spousal supplement would be about $557, for a total of $747.
The early claiming penalty varies depending on the year you were born, and the penalties grow for those born in more recent years.
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I hold a doctorate in economics from the University of Wisconsin and taught economics at the University of Delaware for many years.
Disclaimer: We strive to provide accurate information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that we are not offering legal, accounting, investment or other professional advice or services, and that the SSA alone makes all final determinations on your eligibility for benefits and the benefit amounts. Our advice on claiming strategies does not comprise a comprehensive financial plan. You should consult with your financial adviser regarding your individual situation.