Social Security is important: Can my wife claim her benefits now and switch to my spousal benefit later?

By Russell Gloor, national social security advisor at the AMAC Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: Can my wife claim her benefits now (at age 63, and we know about the early claim reduction) and then when I retire at 66 years and 10 months in almost 3 years, will she be able to transition to benefits spouse based on the amount of my benefits? She has worked in a better-paying job for much of her career, but her income is now much lower and her income would be less than the amount that would further reduce her benefits. I currently make about nine times her annual salary, so spousal benefits for her would increase when I retire. Signed: Search for information

Dear researcher: Yes, your wife can now claim her own (reduced) Social Security retirement benefit, and she will automatically receive spousal assistance when you later claim your SS retirement benefit. However, your wife’s benefit at the time of your application will not be equal to 50% of your Full Retirement Age (FRA) amount because she claimed her own SS benefit earlier and also because her boost of spouse will be granted before his FRA. Any benefit received before the FRA is reduced, including the spousal benefit.

Here’s what will happen if your wife claims her own Social Security at age 63:

Your wife’s personal SS retirement benefit, when she claims it, will be reduced by approximately 25%.

  • When you apply at full retirement age, your wife will receive a spousal boost toward her own reduced benefit.
  • The amount of your spouse’s spousal assistance will be the difference between her FRA entitlement and 50% of your FRA entitlement, reduced because spousal assistance will be granted (automatically) before she has reached her own full retirement age. FRA amounts are used to calculate the spousal increase, regardless of the age at which benefits are claimed.
  • When you declare that your spouse will not yet be her FRA, the amount of her spousal allowance (the difference between her FRA entitlement and half of your FRA entitlement) will be reduced.
  • The spouse’s reduced increase will be added to your wife’s reduced SS retirement benefit, making her total benefit amount less than half yours.

The only way for your wife to get the full 50% of your FRA entitlement is to wait until her own FRA (age 67) to apply for Social Security, but in doing so she also loses the money that ‘she would receive differently if she claimed her own benefits now. . As long as she does not significantly exceed the income limit when she was working before her FRA, applying now is an acceptable strategy because it will take her many years to recoup the money lost while waiting for her FRA to file. claim. It’s also reasonable because women statistically outlive men and your wife’s benefits, as your surviving spouse, will be 100% of the amount you receive upon your death, instead of the smaller amount she received while you were both alive.

When to apply is always a personal choice, and life expectancy should always be carefully considered, but the answer to your specific question is: yes, if your wife applies for her own benefit at age 63, she will automatically receive her spousal assistance when you apply, but her spousal payment will be less than 50% of your FRA benefit amount.

This article is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial guidance. It presents the opinions and interpretations of AMAC Foundations staff, trained and accredited by the National Association of Social Security (ANSS). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation and their 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 send us an email to

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