Will My Wife Be Deemed If I'm Not Collecting?

Jun 12 2016 - 7:30am

My wife will be 62 soon (in July 2016). I am a year younger at 61. I have earned much more than my spouse over the years (est $2,270 from SS @ FRA), but she could receive some Social Security on her own work record (est $660 from SS @ FRA). However, she could obviously receive a much higher payment by taking the maximum spouse benefit from me when I retire (est $1,135 from SS). I plan to keep working and not receive Social Security until I am 70, in 9 years (est $3,010 from SS @ age 70). And, I understand my wife would not be able to receive a spousal benefit until I retire.

I don’t want to jeopardize the higher spousal benefit for my wife. But, is it possible for her to receive the lower benefit on her own record for the next 9 years until I retire and then receive the higher spousal benefit? I see that due to deeming, if my spouse began taking a Social Security benefit on her own record, either now at 62 or at 66, she would have been deemed to have also taken a spousal benefit too – if she’s eligible.

However, since I am not yet retired, and there is no spousal benefit available from me yet, how would that work? I read in your book (Get What's Yours -- The Revised Secrets to Maxing Out Your Social Security) that if she files for her retirement benefit, that she can never take an auxiliary benefit by itself. But, would that later auxiliary benefit really be by itself, since, technically, she would receive her benefit plus the portion of the spousal benefit up to the total spousal benefit? So, my question is: Can she take her own benefit for the next 9 years until I retire, and then begin to receive a higher spousal benefit when I retire?

Thank you,


Dear Phil,

Your wife won't be forced to take her spousal benefit until you take your retirement benefit. So your proposed strategy of having her take her retirement benefit early and then take her excess spousal benefit when you take your retirement benefit at 70 sounds optimal. The question, though, is when she should start her retirement benefit. It's not clear that 62 is the right answer as this will permanently leave her with a reduced retirement benefit plus an unreduced excess spousal benefit. Please run yourselves through our software. It will figure out precisely when she should start her retirement benefit.

Yours, Larry