What Should My Wife Do?

Dec 31 2016 - 12:15pm

I plan to retire next July. I will be 64 and know that I will receive a reduced benefit because I am not waiting to age 66. My wife will be 62 when I retire. She has not worked outside of our home for 40 years of our marriage. She is not even close to 40 quarters of social security employment. What can or should she do? As long as I am alive she will be fine. What happens when I die, if she is still alive?


Your wife could start drawing spousal benefits as soon as you start drawing your benefits, but they'll be reduced if she starts them before full retirement age. If she turns 62 next year, her full retirement age (FRA)would be 66 & 2 months. If she starts her spousal benefits at FRA, she'll receive 50% of your full retirement age rate even if you take reduced benefits. But, if she starts at age 62, her rate will be reduced by around 31%.

If you're concerned about your wife having enough income if you die before her, then you may want to consider waiting a while to start your benefits. Her potential widow's benefit rate on your record would be the full rate that you are receiving at the time of your death. So, if you take reduced benefits, that reduction will carry over to your wife's potential widow's benefit rate. On the other hand, if you wait past age 66 to start drawing benefits, the delayed retirement credits that you'd receive would also carry over to her potential widower's rate. To maximize both your own benefit rate and your wife's potential widow's rate, you would need to wait until age 70 to start drawing your benefits. The downside of that strategy would, of course, be that neither you or your wife would receive any benefits until you reach age 70.

You may want to consider running the maximization software available on this website before you make any filing decisions. That will give you all of the information you need to make the best decision on when both you and your wife should start drawing your benefits.

Best, Jerry