Can My Wife Get Spousal Benefits While Her Own Benefits Are In Suspense?

Mar 18 2017 - 6:45am

The wife (FRA is 66) in the month she turned age 62 (Mar 2010) starting receiving her worker’s benefit in her first eligible month. The husband (FRA is 66) in the month he turned age 66 (Sep 2014) filed a restricted application for spousal benefit only on the wife’s earnings record (smaller earnings than husband). In the same month (Sep 2014), we suspended the wife’s worker’s benefit. These events occurred before the change in the law in April 2016. Now before either of us turn age 70, can the wife start receiving spousal benefit on the husband’s earnings record and allow the wife’s suspended worker’s benefit to continue to grow at 8% per year? I know this move would terminate the husband receiving spousal benefit on the wife’s earnings record.

HI,

The wife in the scenario could potentially receive an excess spousal benefit if the husband file's for his retirement benefit, but only if 50% of the husband's full retirement age rate (PIA) is higher than her own PIA.

For example, Jane has a PIA of $800, but files at age 62 and receives a reduced rate of $600 instead. Her husband, John, files for spousal benefits only on Jane's record when he turns 66 and receives a rate of $400. John's own PIA is $1500, but he waits until age 70 to file on his own record and receives an increased rate of $1980. Of course, John's spousal benefits would stop at this point. Jane would not be eligible for any spousal benefits, however, because her own PIA ($800), is more than 50% of John's PIA ($1500/2 = $750). This is true even if Jane has suspended her own benefits. In other words, she can't receive spousal benefits in place of her own suspended retirement benefits.

You may want to strongly consider running the maximization software available on this website in order to sort this all out for you. The software will advise you of your best course of action based on your actual benefit rates.

Best, Jerry