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October 29, 2014 | by Jim Saulnier, CFP®
Question on Spousal Benefits

When you're done reading, be sure to listen to our audio blog below!

In a previous blog post, we explained some of the basics of Social Security Spousal Benefits. Today we answer a question from a blog follower about this claiming strategy.  The follower asks if it is possible for his wife to file for her own benefit at age 62 and then switch to her higher spousal benefit when she reaches her full retirement age of 66.  The sort answer is yes…..and no.

The wife, in this instance, does have the ability to switch from her SS benefit to her spousal benefit due to the specific circumstances of this case.  The main details are:

  1. The husband qualifies for a SS retirement benefit but has NOT yet filed
  2. The wife qualifies for her own benefit on her own work record
  3. The husband plans to file and suspend his benefit at age 66 to unlock access for his wife to file her maximum spousal benefit at her age 66

When the wife goes to the SS office to claim at her age 62, the SSA has the obligation to calculate all the benefits for which she is entitled and pay her the maximum amount.  If her spousal benefit is the highest she would be forced to claim it at 62 and permanently reduce what she receives due to the early filing.  In this particular case she will not qualify for a spousal benefit at 62 since her husband has not yet filed.  (See our previous blog on spousal benefits for an explanation of this rule.)  Since she does not qualify for a spousal benefit they will allow her to file for only her own benefit.  Once her husband files at his age 66 she will be able to “switch” to her spousal benefit, if the calculation determines it is higher than her own benefit.  However, because she filed for her own benefit at age 62 she will not be eligible to receive the full 50% of the husband’s benefit as she would have if she had waited until age 66.  This causes any increase she may receive from switching to be reduced, but if the switch benefits her she will be allowed to do it.

Please use the play button below to listen to the audio blog for more details on this case and the nuances of the rules involved. And if you have your own Social Security question, please email us and let us know.

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