Q. Is it correct that if my wife receives Social Security based on her own earnings at 62 she cannot switch to 50% of my benefit when I retire? One more question, please. Is there some kind of a “family maximum” that affects how much retirement benefits a married couple can receive? Thanks again.

A. No, that’s not true. Your wife may begin her own reduced Social Security benefit and still qualify for an additional spouse benefit when you begin your benefit. However, a wife who retires early never receives the full 50 percent. Her own early retirement must be taken into consideration. A very simple example may help. Assume your wife’s full retirement age benefit is $400 and your full-retirement age benefit is $1,400. If she begins her benefit at age 62, her early retirement reduction will reduce her benefit to approximately $300. Assuming she is full retirement age when you retire, her $300 monthly payment will increase by $300 – the difference between her full benefit ($400) and half of your full benefit ($700). Her new monthly payment would be $600.

The family maximum does not affect the amount of benefits that can be paid to a married couple when both have been in the work force. Each receives his or her own benefit. There is a family maximum on the amount of benefits that can be paid on a single earnings record. For example, the maximum would be reached if a deceased wage earner left a widow and two dependent children.