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Ask Rusty - Will I get spousal benefits?

November 18, 2018

Dear Rusty: What percentage, if any, should I be able to collect on my husband’s Social Security benefits? He started his at full retirement age and I’m turning 62 in 3 months (born 1957).

I did work and am eligible to collect on my own work record. Half of his benefit would be approximately $300 more a month than I would collect with my own benefit. I am not currently working and do not have plans to go back to work. When I called the SS office to make an appointment, I asked this same question and the person I spoke with said I couldn’t collect on my spouse.

I have a friend who told me his wife did get some extra benefit from his Social Security and she also worked. Signed: Inquiring Mind

Dear Inquiring: Not everyone is automatically entitled to spousal benefits, and everyone doesn’t get 50 percent of the higher earning spouse’s benefit amount.

Whether or not you are eligible depends upon how much your benefit on your own work record is at your full retirement age, compared to half of your husband’s benefit at his full retirement age (FRA). And if you take benefits at age 62, both your own benefit and your spousal benefit will be reduced. Born in 1957, your benefit at age 62 from your own work record will be reduced by 27.5 percent from what it would be at 66 ½ (your full retirement age).

Because you’re taking the spousal benefit early (you’ll be deemed to be filing for spousal benefits when you claim your own) you won’t get 50 percent of your husband’s FRA benefit, rather it will be reduced. Here’s how you can figure out your total benefit at age 62, and whether you will get a spousal benefit in addition to your own.

First, find out what your benefit amount would be if you wait until your full retirement age to claim (you can get this from Social Security or by creating your own “My Social Security Account” online at www.ssa.gov). Since you say your husband claimed at his FRA, compute one half of his current benefit, and then compare your FRA benefit amount to one half of his benefit amount. If half of his is less than your FRA benefit, you won’t get a “spousal boost.”

If half of his is more than your FRA benefit, you will get a spousal boost, but it will be reduced because you’re taking it at age 62 instead of at your FRA. At age 62, rather than half of your husband’s benefit you would get about 34 percent of his benefit, and the difference between that amount and your own reduced age 62 benefit is your spousal boost.

That spousal boost, if any, will be added to your age 62 benefit amount to arrive at your total Social Security benefit at age 62. And that total amount will be less than 50 percent of your husband’s benefit. Since Social Security has already told you that you aren’t entitled to a spousal benefit, it’s probable that your own FRA benefit amount is more than 50 percent of your husband’s FRA amount.

Russell Gloor is a certified Social Security advisor for the Association of Mature American Citizens.

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