Social Security – Spousal Benefits

As many of you already know, full retirement age for social security is age 66.  Even though you could apply early at age 62, many advisors will tell you to wait if you can until you hit full retirement age to start collecting, and if you can wait even longer, then you will earn 8% annual delayed credits on your primary insurance amount (PIA).  Wow, to earn 8% on my money, not such a bad deal.  But what about if you are married?  Are their benefits to one person collecting and the other waiting?  Yes!

Spousal benefits = 1/2 the primary worker’s PIA if started at full retirement age (35% if started at 62)

So what does this mean for you?  Let’s say a husband (Tom) and wife (Tina) are both age 66.  Tom is still working, but Tina is not.  She did work at some point, but is now retired.  She has waited to start collecting until she is 66 so that she can get her full retirement benefit.  However, when she goes to apply, her benefit amount is $800.  Tom on the other hand, if he was going to start collecting, his benefit amount would be $2,000.  If Jane applies for spousal benefits, her benefit amount would be $1,000 (50% of Tom’s benefit amount).

There are a few things however to remember:

– In order to collect, Tom must apply for his benefit first, and if he would like (since he is still working and wanted to earn those delayed credits at 8% until age 70) he can suspend the benefit.    Remember, applying and then suspending your benefit will not affect your delayed retirement credits.

– The spouse must be at least 62 for reduced benefits, or 66 for full benefits

– Spousal benefit does not include any delayed credits the worker may have received, it is based on the workers PIA, not the worker’s actual benefit.

– Spouse can apply for just spousal benefits and delay their own benefits IF the spouse is at full retirement age (this is Tricky!).

– You must be married a year.

– You can only collect one – either spousal benefits or your own benefit – You have to make a choice.

– The spouse can be either the husband or the wife.


Social Security benefits are so much more than retiring at age 66 and start collecting.  There are ways that you can maximize your retirement income, this is just one example.  Make sure to consult with your financial planner or accountant to make sure you are maximizing your return.



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