Does A Spousal Benefit Increase If Their Spouse Works Past Full Retirement Age?

Sep 12 2018 - 2:23pm

Does spousal benefit rate increase if the spouse whose record the benefit is based on works past full retirement age? In other words, if I work until I am 70, will my retired spouse be eligible for spousal benefit based only on what my benefit would have been if I had retired at 66 (useless, as 50% of that is slightly less than benefit she’s currently receiving)? Or will it eventually be based on my benefit at age 70? BTW, we were born in 1951 and 1952, if that makes a difference.


Yes, but only if the working spouse's primary insurance amount (PIA) increases as a result of additional earnings or cost of living increases (COLA).

For example, say Bob's PIA when he reaches his full retirement age (FRA) of 66 is $1500. If Bob filed for his benefits at that time his wife could be eligible for an unreduced spousal rate of as much as $750, or 50% of Bob's PIA. However, if Bob keeps working and doesn't file for his benefits until age 70, his wife could receive as much as 50% of whatever Bob's PIA is at the time he files for his benefits. Let's say that by the time Bob reaches age 70 his PIA has risen to $1600 due to additional earnings and COLAs. Bob's wife could then receive an unreduced spousal benefit or as much as $800.

In the example above, since Bob waited until age 70 to start drawing his benefits his benefit rate would be $2112, or 32% more than his PIA. However, the maximum possible spousal benefit amount payable on Bob's record would be limited to 50% of his PIA. But, if Bob dies before his wife she could get up to his full benefit rate inclusive of the delayed retirement credits (DRC) he earned by waiting until age 70 to start drawing his benefits.

It sounds like you and your wife have numerous potential filing options available to you, especially since both of you were born prior to January 2 1954. You should strongly consider using our maximization software to explore and compare your various options in order to determine your best strategy.

Best, Jerry