Can My Wife Switch To A Spousal Benefit When I File On My Record?

Jul 1 2019 - 2:05pm

Hi Larry, I am 66 and my wife is 68. She started taking her ss benefit at 62 on her own work record. I am now receiving a spousal benefit (restricted app) and will wait until age 70 to collect on my own record. Question - when I file at age 70 can my wife then switch to a spousal benefit on my record? Her 50% FRA benefit will be much smaller than my 50% FRA benefit. From what I have read, could she get the difference between her 50% FRA benefit and my 50% FRA benefit. Could you please explain how it all works, if at all? Thanking you in advance. Jim

Hi Jim,

Your wife can't switch to just a spousal benefit when you start drawing your own Social Security retirement benefits, but she could potentially file for an excess spousal benefit at that time. She'll only qualify for an excess spousal benefit, though, if 50% of your primary insurance amount (PIA) is higher than her own full PIA. A person's PIA is the amount of their Social Security retirement benefit if they start drawing at their full retirement age (FRA).

For example, say Julie started drawing her own Social Security retirement benefits at age 62. Julie's PIA is $1000, but her reduced age 62 rate is only $750. When Julie's husband reaches age 70, he applies for his Social Security retirement benefits with a PIA of $2000. Julie's husband's benefit rate would then be $2640 (i.e. 32% higher than his PIA), because he earned 4 years worth of delayed retirement credits (DRC) by waiting until age 70 to start his retirement benefits rather than claiming them at his FRA of 66. However, even though Julie's monthly benefit rate is less than a third as much as her husband's benefit rate (i.e. $750 vs. $2640), she would not qualify for any spousal benefits because her PIA is equal to or greater than 50% of her husband's PIA (i.e. $1000 vs 50% of $2000).

Best, Jerry