Social Security Matters – Will My Wife’s Benefit Change My Claiming Decision?

Date:

Social Security Matters by Rusty Gloor, National Social Security Advisor at the AMAC Foundation, the nonprofit arm of the Association of Mature American Citizens

Dear Rusty: I will be 69 in April 2023 and my wife will be 59 later this month. I am still working and trying to determine whether I should take Social Security at 69 or 70. My main question revolves around my wife’s future Social Security benefits and how they affect my will influence decision to start mine at 69 or 70. I would like to know how to map all this out. Signed: Wait and see

Dear waiting: Since you are now 68 and not yet receiving benefits, you have been earning (since age 66) Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) which will result in increased personal Social Security benefits as long as you delay claiming, until age 70 when your maximum benefit is reached . If you claim at age 69, your benefit will be 24% higher than at your full retirement age (FRA) of 66; if you wait until you are 70 years old to apply for your benefit, your benefit will be 32% higher than on your 66th birthday (8% extra benefit for waiting for that extra year).

Your wife’s future spousal support while you are both alive (if she is entitled to it) will be based on your age of 66, not the higher amount you get because you waited to claim. But your wife’s benefit as your surviving widow will be based on the amount you actually received at your death, not at age 66. So if your goal is to maximize your younger wife’s widow’s benefit, then that will be enough to wait until you’re 70 to claim your benefit. Please note that your wife’s surviving spouse’s benefit will be affected by her own age when she applies. If she has reached her own full retirement age of 67 at the time she submits her application, she will receive the maximum survivor benefit available to her. Claimed at age 67 while you are both alive, her spousal benefit will be 50% of your age 66 benefit, whichever is more than she is personally entitled to. If you die first and your wife applies for her survivor benefit at or after age 67, she will receive 100% of the benefit you received on your death instead of her own smaller benefit. But if she claims her survivor’s benefit before she reaches her own FRA of 67, that benefit will be actuarially reduced according to the number of months prior to her FRA she was claimed. Keep in mind that your wife can wait to claim her survivor’s benefit until it reaches the maximum at her full retirement age.

So, to recap, your wife’s benefit while you are alive will be based on your age of 66 and her age when she claims it, and your wife’s benefit as your widow will be based on 100% of what you get when you die and her age when she claims it. The maximum benefit for your wife will be reached in both cases when she reaches her FRA (67), but previously claimed will be reduced. And if you wait until you’re 70 to claim, you’re maximizing your widowed wife’s benefit.

Finally, since you’re still working, know that if your current earnings are among the highest of your life, you’ll still get credit for that earnings even after you start collecting your Social Security benefits. Your SS benefit when you apply is based on the 35 years of highest income in your lifetime (adjusted for inflation), but SS will review your earnings each year to see if a benefit increase is warranted because your current earnings are higher than all used in the original calculation of your benefit amount.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not represent legal or financial guidance. It presents the views and interpretations of AMAC Foundation staff trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its staff are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency. To ask a question, visit our website (amacfoundation.org/programs/social-security-advisory) or send an email to [email protected]

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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