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Q: Can Spouse file for spousal benefits on Husband’s work record?
Yes. Provided Wife is at least 62 years old, she is eligible to file for spousal benefits on Husband’s work record. Even if Wife has not earned enough work credits on her own retirement account, she is eligible to file spousal or survivor benefits.
Q: How much will Spouse receive?
A spouse can earn up to a maximum of 50% of their spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount. Since Husband’s PIA is $2,000 per month, Wife would be entitled to $1,000 per month (1/2 of $2K) if she waits until she reaches her Full Retirement Age (66). If Wife begins collecting at 64, her spousal retirement will be reduced even further because of early filing reductions.
Q: What if Husband had filed early himself? Does that impact Wife’s ability to collect spousal benefits?
No. Even if Husband’s monthly benefit is reduced to $1,500 per month (say for example, he filed at 62), the spousal amount Wife is entitled to if she waits until she reaches FRA remains 50% of Husband’s PIA amount, which is $1,000 per month (50% of $2K).
Q: Can Wife file for spousal benefits and let her own retirement benefits grow?
It depends on when she was born. The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 restricted or eliminated couple of strategies that were used to maximize a couple's overall benefits. If Wife was born on or before January 1, 1954 (if you turn at least 64 in 2017, or on Jan 1, 2018, you are eligible), she is entitled to file for restricted spousal benefits only while her own retirement benefits grow by virtue of delayed retirement credits. Wife must have reached her FRA to file for restricted spousal benefits. For example, if Wife files for restricted spousal benefits when she reaches FRA, she is entitled to receive 50% of Husbands PIA amount (she receives $1,000 per month), while her own retirement benefits are delayed and increase by 8% a year until she reaches age 70. Anyone born after Jan 01, 1954 cannot choose which benefits they want to receive, they will be paid the highest benefit amount the recipient is eligible for – either the spousal benefit or her own retirement benefit.
Q:What happens to Wife’s spousal benefit if Husband dies?
If Husband dies while Wife is receiving spousal benefits, she will then be paid either her own retirement benefit or the survivor benefit she is eligible for, whichever is greater.
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