My wife and I turn 66 in October, 2016. My wife is not eligible, on her own, for Social Security benefits. According to the SSA website I would receive $2,617/month at age 66 if I filed for benefits. Based on my understanding of Spousal benefits my wife would receive $1,308/month. Together this would equal $47,100 annually or a total of $188,400 by the time we reach age 70. If we were to defer receiving benefits until we reach age 70 our annual amount would total $57,912 (my $3,518/month and my wife's $1,308/month) resulting in a $10,812 annual increase. By my calculation, our 'break even' point would be over 17 years at which time I would be 87. My current life expectancy is 84.4 years according to the SSA Life Expectancy calculator. Were I to die at 84 my surviving wife's total benefit would be my $3,518/month age 70 benefit amount. Can you explain why I wouldn't want to capture the $188,400 we would receive prior to age 70 and accept the reduced post age 70 benefit?
First off, there appears to be an error in your analysis. If you start drawing your benefits at age 66, your wife would only receive your age 66 benefit as a widow, regardless of how old you are at the time of your death. On the other hand, if you wait until age 70 to start drawing, your wife would receive your full rate including delayed retirement credits, or $3518 based on your figures.
In other words, your decision on when to file would have a direct impact on how much your wife would potentially receive as a widow. If you start drawing at age 66 instead of age 70, the lower rate would continue for as long as either of you live. Remember that if the average life expectancy is age 84, which is actually closer to age 87 for females who are currently age 66, it means that roughly half of those people will live longer than that. And, many of them will live significantly longer.
For a brief explanation of Larry's thoughts on this subject, read the following: http://www.forbes.com/sites/kotlikoff/2015/05/27/social-security-qa-can-....