Can My Wife Take Her Own Benefits At FRA And Later Switch To Spousal Benefits?

Jan 4 2019 - 5:13pm

Larry, I have read your book twice (original and updated - great books).
My question is:
Can/should my wife take her normal benefits at FRA=66 and then switch to take spousal benefits at age 70 (when I take my benefits). Or will she be stuck at her FRA level? Can she switch from her FRA to spousal?
My wife and I are each 65. Thus our FRA = 66.
I plan on taking my benefits at age 70.
My benefits at FRA = $2847 and at age 70 = $3810
My wife's benefits at FRA = $815 and at 70 = $1076
Thank you, Jon

Hi Jon,

Your wife couldn't switch from her own record to spousal benefits, but she could file for an additional excess spousal benefit when you apply. The net effect would basically be the same, though.

For example, using your figures if your wife files for her own retirement benefits at full retirement age (FRA), she'd start out receiving $815. Then when you subsequently file for your benefits, she could file for additional spousal benefits. Your wife's spousal rate would then be calculated by subtracting her primary insurance amount (PIA), which is the same as her full retirement age rate, from 50% of your PIA. Therefore, if your figures are accurate your wife would be eligible for an excess spousal benefit of roughly $608 (i.e. $2847/2 - $815) when you file for your benefits. That amount would then be added to her own retirement rate to give her a combined benefit amount of roughly $1423.

I should add that if you were born prior to January 2 1954, you could potentially file a restricted application for spousal benefits only starting with the later of a) your month of FRA attainment or b) your wife's initial month of entitlement to her retirement benefits. That would allow you to draw 50% of your wife's PIA while you're waiting to start your own benefits at age 70.

You and your wife should strongly consider using our software to fully explore and compare all of your filing options so that you can be sure to choose the best overall strategy for claiming your benefits.

Best, Jerry