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 Randy:
“If I wait until 70 to collect my benefit and my wife also waits, can she receive half of my higher benefit, which would be higher than her benefit?”
Delaying won’t help spousal benefit
Randy: If you wait until 70 to receive your benefit, your benefit will be much higher than it would be if you claimed your benefit at full retirement age. The spousal benefit, however, is based on your full retirement age benefit,; not the benefit that you will receive if you wait until 70.
Perhaps a numerical example will help to see this more clearly:
Suppose your birthday is in 1960 or later. Then, your full retirement age is 67. (If you were born before 1960, your full retirement age will be between 66 and 67.)
Suppose further that your benefit — if claimed at full retirement age — is $2,000. Then, your monthly benefit will be $2,480 if claimed at age 70, because your benefit increases by 8% for each year you wait beyond your full retirement age.
If your wife waits until her full retirement age to claim her spousal benefit, she will receive $1,000, which is half your benefit at full retirement age. Her spousal benefit will not increase if she waits beyond her full retirement age to claim, and your waiting to 70 to claim your benefit will not affect her benefit of $1,000.
There are some additional elements to consider:
- First, your wife cannot claim a spousal benefit until you claim your own benefit. So, waiting until 70 to claim your own benefit may delay her claiming her spousal benefit.
- Second, she will receive less than $1,000 if she claims a spousal benefit before reaching her full retirement age. She must wait until 62 to claim a spousal benefit, but the earlier she claims, the greater the reduction in her benefit.
As this discussion points out, there are many issues related to when it is best to claim benefits. The situation for each couple can be quite different. An individualized report can help you see which approach is best for you.
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I hold a doctorate in economics from the University of Pennsylvania and taught economics at the University of Delaware for many years. Presently, I am teaching at Gallaudet University.
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.