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Spousal Benefits

IF YOU ARE MARRIED, you can receive a spousal benefit equal to as much as half your husband’s or wife’s benefit as of his or her full retirement age. If you claim a spousal benefit before your own full retirement age, your benefit will be reduced.

The reduction can be severe. Check out the Benefits for Spouses calculator available at SocialSecurity.gov. If your full retirement age is 66, your spousal benefit will be reduced by 30% if you claim at 62, 25% at 63 and so on. What if your full retirement age is 67? The reduction at 62 would be 35%, while at 63 it would be 30%. On the other hand, don’t claim spousal benefits any later than your full retirement age. Why not? You don’t get any credit for delaying beyond that point.

Keep two key provisions in mind. First, if you file for benefits, you will be deemed to have filed for both spousal benefits and any benefit owed based on your own earnings record, and you’ll get paid the higher of the two. There’s a loophole for those who turned age 62 before year-end 2015, which we discuss later in this chapter, but the 2015 Budget Act closed this loophole for everybody else.

That said, if you file for benefits, you can always get benefits based on your own earnings record, but you may not be able to claim spousal benefits. That brings us to the second key provision: You can’t receive spousal benefits until your husband or wife claims his or her benefit. Confused? It’s helpful to look at different strategies that couples might use.

Next: Claiming Strategies for Couples

Previous: Breaking Even

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