Q. At my full retirement age (FRA) can I apply for spouse benefits only? My wife will be 63 next July and can draw $709. Can I apply for 50% of her benefit (I will be 66) and let my account accumulate delayed retirement credits (DRC’s) till age 69? Then have her apply for spouse benefits, when I draw on my account? My FRA (66) benefit will be $2,220 without the delayed credits. Would her spouse benefit be reduced even though she is 66 at the time she applies or would she the get the full 50%?
A. At your full retirement age, if your wife has applied for her Social Security benefit you may apply for a spouse benefit and allow your own benefit to continue to increase until age 70.
A wife who begins her own benefit early never receives a full 50 percent of her husband’s benefit. When you begin your benefit, what she will receive as a spouse addition to her own benefit is the difference between her unreduced full retirement age benefit and half of your full-retirement-age benefit. Using the numbers you provide as an example and disregarding all interim cost-of-living adjustments or changes in your full benefit amount, when your wife applies for her spouse benefit at her full retirement age, roughly $155 would be added to her reduced personal benefit (i.e. the difference between her unreduced benefit which I estimate as $945 and half of your full benefit – $1,110). Should you predecease your wife, her early retirement would no longer matter. As a widow, her combined personal and widow benefit would be the full amount you would receive if still alive, reduced only if she still were less than full retirement age when her widow benefit began.