Mailbag: Reduction of Social Security Spousal Benefits

answers to social security questions

A reader asks a question about the reduction of Social Security Spousal Benefits

QUESTION:

Will my spouse’s Social Security benefits be reduced?

My spouse began collecting her Social Security benefits at age 64. I plan on retiring at 67, later in 2017. When I retire, I will begin collecting SS on my earnings. The plan is to have my wife switch from collecting on her earnings to collect half of mine because mine is greater. Will she be able to collect half of my benefit, or will her benefit be reduced because she started collecting early on her earnings?

ANSWER:

Good question! It would seem relatively straightforward, but then again…we’re dealing with the Social Security Administration.

Here’s the short answer:

As long as your wife is full retirement age when you file for your benefit, she will be entitled to 50% of your full retirement age benefit as an entitled spouse.

This answer seems to contradict what the SSA says about reduced benefits based on filing ages. But here’s why her future spousal benefit doesn’t have to be reduced.

When she filed for her own benefit, she was not eligible for a spousal benefit. Why? Because in order for her to receive a spousal benefit from your work record there is a trigger…you must file for your benefits. If you haven’t filed, she isn’t eligible to collect from your record.  Once you file, she becomes eligible for a spousal benefit and her reduction for filing age is determined at her date of first eligibility. If she is full retirement age when you file (and she thus become eligible), there is no reduction.

Hope this helps!