Q: I am 64 and my wife is 62. Her Social Security benefit at 66 would be $308. Mine will be $1,917. Will this work? She files for her benefit now (at 62) and starts receiving $208 per month; that's her reduced benefit, as estimated by the Social Security Administration. In two years, I turn 66 and collect my full $1,917 monthly benefit. Two years after that, when my wife turns 66, can she re-apply for spousal benefits only, and switch from her reduced benefit to 50% of my benefit, about $958 monthly? There would be no penalties involved with this scenario right? --FW
A: Sorry, but this scenario is a non-starter.
Your wife will not have the option of re-applying for Social Security at 66.
If she applies for Social Security benefits at 62 -- or at any time before her full retirement age of 66 -- she will be filing for both her spousal benefit and her benefit based on her own earnings. She will receive the larger of the two, reduced for her age at the time of application. Period, the end. She doesn't get another bite at the apple.
And just to be clear: You don't get the option of applying for your spousal benefit alone unless you are a) at your full retirement age; and b) have not previously applied for Social Security.
For more on what to ask before deciding to apply for Social Security, take a look at an article I recently wrote for Reuters, 'When to start tapping Social Security'.
Please send your questions to Lynn@LynnBrennersFamilyFinance.com. I'm sorry I can't respond personally to every email. Questions are only addressed online.
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