Q & A

“I have been trying to get the exact method used to compute my wife’s 50 percent amount if she decides to suspend her benefits when she reaches full retirement age of 66 next year. Is it based on 50 percent of the amount I received when I took my Social Security at age 62? Or is it based on the amount I currently receive?”

Answer:  The spousal benefit Chuck is referring to is up to 50 percent of the amount he would be entitled to receive at his full retirement age (Social Security calls this the primary insurance amount), regardless of when he started actually started claiming benefits.

Let’s say Chuck’s primary insurance amount is $1,000 per month. If his wife files for spousal benefits at her full retirement age (say it’s 66), she will get half that amount, or $500. If she files before age 66, she will get less than 50 percent. She can file as early as 62, but the earlier she files, the lower percent she gets (unless she is caring for a qualifying child, in which case it is not reduced).

However, if she is younger than 66 and her own benefit amount – based on her own work record – is higher than the spousal benefit, then she will receive her own benefit and not the spousal benefit.

Jim Blankenship of Blankenship Financial Planning warns, “If your wife is currently receiving benefits, suspending them to draw a spousal benefit will likely cause some unintended results. This is because when a person has already filed for his or her own benefit, the spousal benefit is simply an addition to the current benefit being paid on his or her own record, even if it is suspended.

Source: Kathleen Pender, www.sfgate.com/

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