Can My Wife Get Reduced Benefits On Her Own Account & Spousal Benefits Later?

Jul 7 2016 - 4:45pm

I was born on Feb 29, 1956. My wife was born on Dec 1, 1957. I plan on working, and delaying my Social Security until age 70 (March 1, 2026). My estimated FRA benefit is $,2500/month. My age 70 benefit is about $3,252/month. My wife's age 62 benefit is about $1,000/month and FRA is $1,532/month. Can she file for Social Security at age 62 (2019) and then file again, once I file for Social Security, in 2026? I have read that the spouse can file and get 50 percent of the higher earning spouse, but I cannot figure out "half of what"? Is it half of the FRA amount? Is it half of the age 70 benefit amount? Anyway, thanks in advance!!!! Gary

Hi Gary,

In theory she could, but if the figures shown in your question are accurate, she won't be eligible for spousal benefits. Spousal benefits are computed starting with one-half of the worker's full retirement age benefit (PIA). If the person filing for spousal benefits is also entitled on their own account, their own PIA is then subtracted from that figure.

Here's an example using the amounts you cite, and the plan you outline. First, your wife files at 62 and gets $1000 per month. Then you file at age 70 and get $3252 per month. To determine if she'd be due a spousal benefit, you'd start with one-half of your PIA, or $1250 (i.e. $2500/2), then subtract her PIA, or $1532. The result would be negative, so she'd get no spousal benefit.

However, if you do follow through with your plan as outlined, she could get your full $3252 as a widow if you die first. Technically, she'd still get the $1000 on her own and then an additional $2252 from your record, but the total would be the same.

Best, Jerry