Isn't The Spousal Benefit Always Half?

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Mar 22 2019 - 8:17am

Hi, I joined and ran your software and have a question about the results. It recommended that I take spousal benefits when my wide turns 66 this November. And she takes her full benefits. Then when I turn 70 in 2023, I take my full benefits and she takes her spousal benefits. My spousal benefit comes to half her benefit. From the report at age 71 in 2024, my benefit = $44,917. My wife's benefit = $9786 and her spousal benefit = $7228. Added together this is $17014. This is not half of my benefit. What am I missing here. We thought that spousal benefit is always half? Thank you, Jon

Hi Jon,

I need to preface by explaining that although I answer general Social Security questions submitted to this forum, I don't have access to customer data. If you have questions about using our software or your results, you should submit your question via an online contact form available in the help menu. You will then receive a reply from one of our experts with access to your data.

What I can tell you, though, is that a person's spousal benefit rate is not necessarily equal to half of the worker's benefit rate. Unreduced spousal benefits are calculated at 50% of the worker's full retirement age rate, or primary insurance amount (PIA). If you wait until age 70 to start drawing your retirement benefits, your benefit amount will be 32% higher than your PIA. Your spouse's benefit rate wouldn't include any portion of that extra 32%, though, at least while you're living. Her spousal rate will still be calculated based on 50% of your PIA, or in other words half the benefit rate you'd receive if you started drawing your retirement benefits at your full retirement age (FRA) instead of age 70. However, if you wait until age 70 to start drawing your retirement benefits and subsequently die before your wife, her widow's benefit rate will include the full extra 32% of extra credits that you'll earn by waiting until age 70.

Best, Jerry