Dear Rusty: My wife started collecting Social Security at age 65 (full retirement age) and will be 69 in July. I was able to collect half of his social security under an older law. In April, I will turn 70 and start collecting my own social security. I know that I will no longer receive spouse’s allowance at that time, but what I don’t understand is that my wife will be able to claim spouse’s allowance and receive 50% of my social security. She’s currently getting about $930, but 50% of my social security might be about $1,800. Can you give some insight on this? Signed: to be 70 years old
After you submit your application for your own SS retirement benefit, your wife may ask you for a spousal benefit, but the amount of her spousal benefit may not be exactly what you believe. First, your wife’s spousal benefit will be based on the benefit amount you were entitled to at your full retirement age (FRA) of 66, not your benefit amount at age 70. Second, your wife was born in 1953, so her full retirement age is 66 (not 65). If your wife claimed her own SS benefit at age 65, she actually claimed a year early, so it was slightly reduced from her total benefit amount. This is not a bad thing as it allowed you to collect your spousal benefit a year earlier, but it will slightly affect his spousal benefit from you and make it a little less than 50% of your FRA benefit amount .
When a spouse takes their own benefits earlier, their spousal amount will be less than 50% due to the way spousal benefits are calculated. Your wife’s new benefit as your spouse will consist of two parts – her own benefit and a “spouse increase” to bring her payment up to her spousal entitlement. His “spouse’s boost” – which is the difference between his FRA benefit and half of your FRA benefit – will be added to his slightly reduced benefit at age 65 and the total will become his spousal payment, but this will be just under 50% of your FRA benefit amount. Nevertheless, you were smart in taking advantage of an “old law” that allowed you to get spouse’s allowance from your wife while your own allowance was maxed out.