Ask Larry

If A Wife Files At Age 62, Will She Receive An Automatic Increase When Her Husband Files?

Spousal Benefit Scenario for New Social Security Rules:

A significantly lower earning spouse (wife) at age 62 filed for her own retirement benefit

When her significantly higher earning husband files for his benefit (currently age 58) at FRA (66) will his wife receive an automatic increase assuming his PIA is greater than 50% of hers?

In other words, the way I understand the rule right now is that since his wife at age 62 filed for her retirement benefit she was automatically deemed to file for her spousal benefit as well. In the event her husband files, since she already did file, she will have disqualified herself from being able to get the higher amount. Is this accurate?


In the scenario you describe, the wife wouldn't have a choice of when to start drawing spousal benefits once she files on her own record. However, if she subsequently qualifies for spousal benefits the wife won't automatically start drawing spousal benefits when her husband files. Even when deemed filing applies, Social Security requires a separate application in order to establish that the person meets the eligibility requirements for the other benefit. When the wife does file for spousal benefits, though, she'll be forced to choose the same month of entitlement that her husband chooses.

For example, say Sally (DOB 8/26/1955) files for reduced retirement benefits at age 62 with a PIA of $800. Her reduced benefit rate effective with September 2017 is $596. When her husband subsequently files for his retirement benefits in January 2022 with a PIA of $2000, Sally would then become eligible for an unreduced excess spousal benefit of $200 (i.e. ($2000/2) - $800). Once Sally files for and establishes that she qualifies for spousal benefits, the $200 excess spousal benefit would be added to her reduced retirement benefit giving her a combined benefit rate of $796.

In the above example, Sally's excess spousal benefit would be unreduced because she was over full retirement age when she first became eligible for the spousal benefit. However, had Sally's husband become entitled to disability or retirement benefits sooner, Sally would only have been allowed to start her excess spousal benefit entitlement effective with the same month that her husband became entitled, even if that meant that her spousal benefits would also be reduced for age.

Best, Jerry

Aug 26 2017 - 6:25am
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