How much is my wife’s spousal benefit?


Q. I am 70 and have been getting Social Security since my full retirement age. My wife is now 62. If she files now, can she still get one half of my Social Security amount when she reaches her full retirement age?
— Retired

A. Here’s how it works.

If your wife files at 62 or at any time before her full retirement age, her benefit amount will be permanently reduced by a percentage, said Paul Criscione, a certified financial planner with Freedom Capital Management in Colts Neck..

It would be based on the number of months leading up to her full retirement age, unless she has a child in her care who is under 16 years old, he said.

“Specifically, filing early could result in a benefit as low as 32.5 percent of the worker’s primary insurance amount,” Criscione said.

He said a spousal benefit is reduced 25/36 of 1 percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of 1 percent per month, he said.

Criscione said for a spouse who is not entitled to benefits on their own earnings record, the reduction factor is applied to the base spousal benefit, which is 50 percent of the worker’s primary insurance amount.

He offered this example:

If the worker’s primary insurance amount is $1,600 and the worker’s spouse chooses to begin receiving benefits 36 months before his or her normal retirement age, first take 50 percent of $1,600 to get an $800 base spousal benefit. Then compute the reduction factor, which is 36 times 25/36 of 1 percent, or 25 percent. Applying a 25 percent reduction to the $800 amount gives a spousal benefit of $600.

In this case, the final spousal benefit is 37.5 percent of the primary insurance amount, he said.

We recommend you contact your local Social Security office to do the math for your specific situation before you make any decisions you can’t undo.

You can find your local office here.

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