My wife and I both turn FRA (66) this year. She before me, by about 5 months. She was a homemaker for most of our life together and barely had enough credits to qualify for Medicare at age 65 (in 2018) but she made it, and has now filed for SS at age 66, with a monthly earning of about $200 at FRA. I am still working full time and make well over 6 figures. It is my understanding that I have to file for SS at FRA in order for her to draw up to 1/2 my SS earnings? Is that correct? Will SS automatically switch her to the higher amount whether I file or not? I'm assuming that the only "earnings penalty" of sorts that we face if I file for SS later this year after reaching my FRA is that most of our SS earnings will be taxable income (up to 85%). That's OK with us as we have grandkids' college tuitions to help with and some hefty commitments to some needy charities. I intend to work for a couple of more years, but might consider going part time (and reduce some stress levels) if the tax bite is too painful.
You wouldn't necessarily have to file for your benefits at full retirement age (FRA), but yes, you would need to be drawing your retirement benefits in order for your wife to be paid spousal benefits. But no, Social Security would not automatically pay her spousal benefits. Your wife would need to file a separate application for spousal benefits when you file for your retirement benefits. Her spousal rate would be calculated by subtracting her primary insurance amount (PIA), which is equal to her full retirement age rate, from 50% of your PIA. Her combined benefit rate would then add up to half of your PIA, assuming that she doesn't start drawing her own retirement benefits prior to FRA.
You could draw benefits starting effective with the month you reach FRA no matter how much you earn. Since you were born prior to January 2 1954, if you decide to delay filing for your Social Security retirement benefits until sometime after your FRA, you could file for spousal benefits only on your wife's record beginning at FRA. You could then be paid a spousal rate equal to 50% of her PIA until you switch to your own retirement benefits. Delaying your retirement benefits until age 70 would not only increase your monthly benefit rate by 32%, it would also raise your wife's potential widow's rate by the same amount. The downside to waiting, of course, is that your wife would not be able to receive spousal benefits until you start drawing your retirement benefits.
You and your wife may want to strongly consider using our software to fully compare all of your filing options so that you can choose the best possible strategy for claiming your benefits.