Dear Rusty: Would you please advise on my wife and my social security planning? I’m 69 and two months, my wife is 66 and two months, so we’ll both reach full retirement age. We both plan to start taking SS next month. My benefit would be around $ 3,300 a month, and my wife’s benefit would be around $ 1,900 a month. Spouse services confuse me. Should I start social security now so my wife can get a spousal benefit from me? Is it even possible? Or is it better for each of us to have our own? Signed: Unsure
Dear Unsure: From what you have shared, it does not appear that your wife will be eligible for a spouse benefit because her own benefit at her full retirement age (FRA) is more than half of your FRA benefit amount. If your age 69 benefit is around $ 3300, then your OFF benefit (age 66) was around $ 2660. Half of your FRA amount ($ 1330) is less than your wife’s FRA amount ($ 1900), so no spousal benefit will be available to your wife.
In your specific situation, both you and your wife should consider your individual goals when deciding when to require social security. If you plan to claim next month at age 69, you will receive a benefit that has increased by about 26 percent due to the Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) you have earned since reaching your FRA at 66. By claiming her FRA, wife will receive the full SS pension benefit she has earned from a lifetime of work.
Even if your current strategy is good because you were born before 1954 and have not yet reported, you have another option. If your wife claims her SS first, you will be eligible to file a “Restricted Spouse Application.” You can use the limited application to collect a spouse’s benefit from your wife (half of her OFF benefit amount) while allowing your personal benefit to grow for a further nine months to a maximum at the age of 70.
If it is financially possible, and your life expectancy dictates it, both you and your wife may consider waiting even longer to get a higher benefit, but it is a personal choice that you must each make. If you make a claim now at the age of 69, your payment will be reduced by about six percent from your age of a maximum of 70 years. Since your wife is not eligible for a spouse benefit but has reached her FRA, she may also consider deferring a little longer if her financial needs and her estimated life expectancy suggest it is wise. Like you, she can defer the claim until she is 70, when her benefit would reach its maximum (about 30 percent more than it is now).
If you would like a personal estimate of your life expectancy, I suggest you use this link: https://socialsecurityreport.org/tools/life-expectancy-calculator/. The reason why life expectancy is important is this: If you live to a minimum “average” life expectancy, you will accumulate more in cumulative life benefits by waiting longer and maximizing your SS benefit. According to Social Security, the “average” life expectancy is around 84 for a man and 87 for a woman in good health in the 60s. However, using the tool above to assess your personal longevity should further help in making your claims decision.
The information in this article is for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this article are the views of the Association of Mature American Citizens Foundation’s Social Security Advisory staff. To submit a question, contact the foundation at [email protected]