Should I take my Social Security or my spousal benefit?


Q. I am 69 and my wife is 59. She works for the government and plans to take her pension early at age 60. When she is 62, can she start to get Social Security based on my account?
— Planning

A. Let’s start by reviewing details of how a spousal Social Security benefit works — bearing in mind that it differs for those who have their own work record as compared to those spouses who do not.

For those born in 1960 or later, which is your wife’s case, full retirement age (FRA) is 67, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

“When filing early for a benefit, either on a personal work record or as a spouse, Social Security will reduce the amount paid by a fractional percentage based on the time between the filer’s current age and their FRA,” she said.

For a 62-year old spouse without their own work record, the retirement benefit is reduced from 50% to 32.5% permanently, Mott said.

In other words, it will not be adjusted up to 50% when the spouse reaches full retirement age.

Mott offered this example.

Assume your Social Security benefit is $2,000 per month.

Mott said there would be a reduction of 32.9% if the individual was born in 1961, filing at age 62 and 2 months. If your wife doesn’t qualify on her own record and plans to start receiving benefits the month she turns 62, the benefit she would receive is $650 per month. The math looks like this: $2,000 x .329% = $658.

When a spouse who has their own work record decides to file at age 62, Social Security will look at the reduced benefit — 70% of their full amount — and adjust it if the calculated spousal benefit is higher,” Mott said.

In the event that your wife’s own benefit is more than half of yours, she would only be entitled to receive her the value of her own, she said.

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This story was originally published on April 24, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.