Can My Wife Collect Spouse's Benefits To Increase Her Amount?

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Sep 10 2019 - 10:03am

Hi Larry I will be 66 (FRA) this October in which I will start collecting SSI benefits and continue to work. My wife who will be 63 this coming March wants to stop working and collect early SSI benefits . Her amount would be about $920. Can she collect spouse's benefits to increase her amount?

Hi,

Your wife could only receive spousal benefits in addition to her own benefits if you're drawing your benefits and if 50% of your primary insurance amount (PIA) is higher than her PIA. A person's PIA is the amount of their Social Security retirement benefit if they start drawing at full retirement age (FRA). However, if your wife starts drawing benefits before FRA her benefit rate and any additional spousal benefits that she qualifies for would be reduced for age.

For example, say Jane files for benefits at age 63. Jane's PIA is $800, but she receives a reduced rate of $626 in return for starting her benefits early. Jane's husband is drawing his benefits and his PIA is $2000. Jane's unreduced excess spousal benefit would be calculated by subtracting her PIA from 50% of her husband's PIA, which in her case is $200 (i.e. $2000/2 - $800). But, since Jane is only 63 when she starts drawing benefits her excess spousal amount is reduced to $146. That would then be paid in addition to Jane's own reduced rate to give her a combined benefit amount of $772 (i.e. $626 + $146).

You might want to at least consider an entirely different strategy, though. Since you were born prior to January 2 1954, if your wife files for her benefits you could file for spousal benefits only when you reach FRA instead of filing for your own retirement benefits. That would allow you to draw 50% of your wife's PIA while letting your own retirement benefit rate grow until age 70. Then, at age 70 you could switch to your own retirement benefits, at which time your benefit rate would be 32% higher than your PIA. That would also likely provide your wife with a higher widow's benefit rate if you die before her.

You and your wife should strongly consider using our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to compare your various options so that you can choose the best possible strategy for claiming your benefits.

Best, Jerry