If I file for Social Security first, can I still get spousal benefits?

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Q. My husband is one year younger than me, so when it comes time for me to file for Social Security at 62, I realize I will have to wait another year for him to turn 62 to receive benefits on his record. Will it be added automatically or does he actually have to claim and be receiving his benefits before they get added to mine?
— Wife

A. Social Security benefits can be complicated.

It’s best to assume nothing happens automatically with Social Security.

You will only be entitled to spousal benefits once your husband begins collecting his benefits, said Nicholas Scheibner, a certified financial planner with Baron Financial Group in Fair Lawn.

But this doesn’t mean you need to delay your benefits, he said.

“You could begin your own retirement benefits at 62, and then apply for spousal benefits once your husband files,” he said. “At the time your husband files, it would be best to arrange a phone appointment with Social Security, as they may be able to apply for your husband’s benefits and your spousal benefits on the same call.”

Keep in mind, though, that filing for your own benefits at 62 may impact your overall benefits.

“Spousal benefits are actually a combination of your own benefits and your spousal benefits,” Scheibner said. “So if you take your Social Security early, your benefits would be reduced.”

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This story was originally published on June 13, 2022.

NJMoneyHelp.com 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.