When can my wife claim benefits on my record?

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Q. I’m 59. My wife will be 65 in May 2019. I don’t reach full retirement age until 2026. My wife only worked for 12 or 13 years and won’t collect very much from Social Security.
— Younger

A. As you know, there are several benefits to applying for Social Security benefits while married.

According to Social Security Administration rules, a person can apply for benefits based on the earnings record of a spouse if that person is at least 62 years of age and the spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits and has applied for them.

The amount of benefits is up to 50 percent of the spouse’s benefits at full retirement age, with the maximum amount paid if the person applies at his/her full retirement age, said Deva Panambur, a certified financial planner with Sarsi, LLC in West New York..

Because you are 59, you’re not yet eligible for Social Security benefits, Panambur said.

You’ll be eligible at age 62 unless unless you are eligible for disability benefits before that time.

So, your spouse cannot yet get benefits based on your earnings record, he said.

“She can apply for benefits based on her own earnings record,” Panambur said. “She will receive higher benefits the longer she waits to file, until she turns 70.”

When you turn 62, and if you decide to apply for Social Security based on your earnings record at that time, your wife can start getting 50 percent of your benefits at full retirement age, he said, assuming the benefit is higher than the benefit she is receiving based on her own earnings record.

She can receive one or the other benefit, Panambur said. She can’t receive both.

“However, keep in mind that if you apply for benefits at age 62, you will receive 30 percent less than what you can receive at age 67 or about 44 percent less than what you can receive at age 70,” he said. “Your decision of whether to apply at age 62 or later will be based on you and your spouse’s relative benefits and which scenario maximizes benefits for both of you together.”

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