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Spousal benefits before full retirement age

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Q: I am wondering whether I can access spousal benefits from my husbands record who is full retirement age and I am only 62?  I do have 40 quarters of my own and would like to postpone getting my own benefits.

Example:  my husband gets $2000 in benefits.  I know that age 62 I will receive less than $1000.  But can I even get it if my own benefits are more then the spousal  benefits.

And if I can, will my own benefits at age 70 (currently projected to be $2200) be reduced because I started spousal benefits at age 62?

A: Since you are not at your full retirement age yet, you cannot access spousal benefits at 62 and delay your own retirement benefits until 70.

Your options are limited when you apply for Social Security benefits before you have reached full retirement age. Your full retirement age is 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954. That means if you apply for benefits before age 66, you have to take the higher benefit at that time. That means you would have to apply for your own retirement benefit and receive it early. We would also check the amount of your spousal benefit and if it is higher than your retirement benefit, then we would pay you a combination of both benefits that equals the higher of the two.

For example, let us suppose that your retirement benefit is $600 a month at age 62 and your benefit as a spouse is $800. You will receive $800 a month, but it would require you to apply for your retirement and the spousal benefit. So you don’t have the option of only taking one benefit so that the other one increases over time. Let us also say that your own retirement is $600 and the spousal benefit is $500. In that case you would only apply for your $600 retirement benefit because it is higher than the spousal benefit.

If you decide to wait until you are full retirement age to apply, then you can apply for the spousal benefit and leave your own retirement benefit alone until as late as age 70. By doing so, your retirement benefit will increase at 8% for each year from age 66 to age 70. It is a way to maximize your retirement benefit while still receiving 50% of your husband’s full benefit when you are 66. So you live on the lower benefit as a spouse and wait up to four years before you start your retirement benefit. If you wait until age 70, then your retirement benefit is now paid at the rate of 132% per month. You can only do this if you wait until full retirement age to start benefits.

Oscar Garcia
Public Affairs Specialist
Social Security Administration

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