My mom filed early for her Social Security benefits at age 62. She receives a very low amount based on her record. My father plans to wait until full retirement age to file for his benefits. He will be entitled to a much higher benefit based upon his work record. When he does file, will my mom's benefit then be stepped up to the full 50% spousal benefit or will she be penalized for claiming her own benefits early? What can my mom expect to receive? Thank you!
No, she won't get the full 50%. She'll keep the reduction amount that she took on her own record in return for filing early. When your father starts drawing his benefits, your mother can apply for an excess spousal benefit, which will be figured by subtracting her own full retirement age benefit rate (i.e. the amount she would have received on her own account if she had waited until full retirement age to apply) from 50% of your father's full retirement age benefit rate. This excess spousal rate will also be reduced for age if she starts drawing it before her full retirement age. The excess spousal benefit will then be added to her own reduced retirement benefit.