Ask Rusty – Can my wife apply for spousal benefit first? – The Observer

Ask Rusty – Can my wife apply for spousal benefit first?

Posted at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, August 20, 2022

Dear Rusty: I have received social security since the age of 66. My wife turned 62 in June. We are thinking of taking his spousal benefits on my file since they would be higher than his (we checked online). We have started to fill out the application, but we see no way to let them know that we want her to receive spousal benefits and not hers. How do we do that? Signed: application essay

Dear Try: You don’t see this option because your wife doesn’t have the option of only collecting a spousal benefit from you without also claiming her own benefit. This option was eliminated by the 2015 Bipartisan Budget Act for anyone born after January 1, 1954. So if your wife applies for SS benefit now, she will automatically be considered to be filing both her own benefit (from her own work file) as well as his spouse’s allowance from you. She cannot delay taking her own advantage when she claims. Your spouse’s benefit will consist of her own benefit plus, if she is entitled to it, a “spouse’s increase” to bring her payment up to her spousal entitlement and, claimed at age 62, her own benefit and increase spouse will be reduced. But there are other factors to consider:

  • If your wife is still working, she will be subject to the Social Security “earnings test” until she reaches the full retirement age (FRA) of 67. The earnings test limits how much your wife can earn while working, and if the limit ($19,560 for 2022) is exceeded, SS will withdraw benefits equal to $1 for every $2 the limit is exceeded. If his current work earnings are high enough, it might even prevent him from receiving early SS benefits. The earnings limit lasts until your wife reaches full retirement age.
  • Your wife cannot collect her full benefits – 100% of her own benefits or 50% of your FRA benefit amount – unless she waits until full retirement age (67) to request it. But if she should even apply for spousal benefit from the FRA, she should consider whether her own SS benefit, at most, will be greater than that of her spouse. Your wife’s maximum spousal benefit (at age 67) will be 50% of your FRA benefit amount, but if she delays claiming beyond her FRA, her own SS retirement benefit will continue to grow (to 8% per year) until she is 70 years old. If your wife’s personal benefit at age 70 will be higher than the spousal benefit you are paying her, she may consider foregoing her spousal benefit and waiting until age 70 to claim her own higher personal benefit. It’s a matter of who will benefit her the most for the rest of her life, that’s where her life expectancy comes in. Generally, if your wife is in good health and expects average longevity ( about 87 for a woman of her current age), waiting for the highest available benefit (either her own or her spouse’s) to reach its maximum is generally a prudent choice.
  • Your spouse’s survivor’s benefit as a widow may also be considered. If her benefit as a survivor will be greater than any other benefits she is entitled to, it may be a good idea to claim her other benefits sooner. For example, if her widow’s benefit (100% of the benefit you would receive on your death if claimed at or after her FRA) will be greater than her maximum spousal benefit or maximum personal benefit, then her best option may be to claim his retirement and spousal benefits sooner. How much earlier would depend on whether she is working and will exceed the earnings limit before age 67.

As you can see, there are a number of things your wife needs to consider before applying for Social Security, but she can’t just apply for her spouse’s benefits at age 62 and allow her own benefits. to continue to grow.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not represent legal or financial advice. It presents the opinions and interpretations of AMAC Foundation staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). The NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government entity. To submit a question, visit our website ( or write to us at [email protected].

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