Social Security Spousal Benefit at or After FRA

Some time ago I wrote an article on the Social Security Spousal Benefit Before FRA, and an astute reader (thanks, SD!) pointed out the obvious to me: I hadn’t written the complementary piece on calculating the spousal benefit at or after FRA.  So let’s get right to it!

When you wait until Full Retirement Age to file for spousal benefits, there is no reduction of that portion of your benefits.  In other words, the spousal benefit will be based on 50% of your spouse’s PIA minus your own PIA, and then this amount will be added to whatever retirement benefit that you’re receiving on your own record.  This additional benefit can’t increase your total benefit to a point greater than 50% of your spouse’s PIA.

Here are some examples:

Started own benefits early

Alice and Terry are both age 66.  Alice started her own benefit early, at age 62.  Her PIA is $800, and Terry’s PIA is $2,000.  Since she filed early, Alice’s monthly benefit is reduced to $600, 75%, of her PIA.  Now at age 66 (FRA for both of them) Terry files and suspends, allowing Alice to file for spousal benefits.  The calculation is as follows:

50% of Terry’s PIA ($1,000) minus Alice’s PIA ($800) equals $200

Therefore, when Alice files for spousal benefits, she will receive an additional $200 on her monthly check, for a total of $800.

Started own benefits at FRA

If Alice had delayed filing for her own benefit until she was at FRA, her own benefit would be $800.  If Terry has filed for his own benefit or filed and suspended, Alice can now file for the spousal benefit.  The calculation is as follows:

50% of Terry’s PIA ($1,000) minus Alice’s PIA ($800) equals $200

This $200 is then added to Alice’s own retirement benefit, so her total benefit amount is now $1,000.  This is equal to 50% of Terry’s benefit, so there is no further reduction.

Started own benefits after FRA

If Alice was two years older than Terry, for example, Alice could have delayed starting her own benefit to an age later than FRA, and therefore her benefit would be increased by Delayed Retirement Credits of 8% per year.  If she filed for her own benefit at age 68, her own benefit would now be $928, an increase of 16%.  When Terry reaches FRA and files for his own benefit (or files and suspends), she is now eligible for the spousal benefit.  The calculation is as follows:

50% of Terry’s PIA ($1,000) minus Alice’s PIA ($800) equals $200

Since adding the spousal offset to Alice’s own benefit would result in a total monthly benefit greater than 50% of Terry’s PIA, the overall increase for the spousal benefit would be reduced to $72, so that Alice’s total monthly benefit would not be greater than half of Terry’s PIA, the maximum benefit due to spousal increase.

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Social Security Spousal Benefit at or After FRA

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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  • Correction: #1 Her PIA at FRA would have been $1050 (had she still been working to age 66).
    Corrention #2 Husband would have filed a RESTRICTED application for spousal against her filing at age 64.5.

  • Question:

    Husband 66. already filed & suspended PIA app $2600. Will wait until 70 to collect on his own earnings. Wife being laid off at 64, and doesn’t expect to work full time anymore. Her PIA would have been around $100 at FRA. Can she file for SS on her own account and take reduced benefts App $800, then have husband, who is at FRA, apply for spousal (App $400) until he turns 70? When he turns 70, the wife files for spousal, which should be more than her own record and then gets this until husband dies. Then she gets Survivor. Is this legal. Does anything have to be done before May 1, 2016?

  • We have a situation similar to your 3rd example – started on benefits after FRA.
    Let’s use that example for my question:

    Alice is 2 years older than Terry and delayed her own benefits after her FRA. Terry reaches
    FRA and file & suspend, when Alice files for spousal benefits and receives 50% of Terry’s PIA.

    Then when Alice reaches 70, she switches back to her own benefits and gets $800*1.32 per month.
    Can Terry at 68 un-suspend and apply for spousal to get 50% of Alice’s PIA? Then at 70 switch back
    to his own benefit and gets $2000*1.32 per month?



  • Can a couple benefit in this way? Can a spouse with a higher PIA file a restricted application for spousal benefits while waiting till 70 to collect on their record. Both applications would be made after FRA.

  • Can a couple claim the 50% spousal benefit in arrears? Is it added to the younger spouse’s PIA at age 70 if they do not take it during the 4-year window and if so, does it get the 8% ratchet? I know that is a loaded question but I have clients in that situation.

    • Unfortunately no on both counts, Phillip.

      If you don’t file for Spousal Benefits, you don’t get them.

      There may be a six-month lookback to pick up benefits prior to the actual filing (if they were eligible for them) but that’s all.

      And Spousal Benefits do not accrue the 8% delay credit like retirement benefits do, they cap out at Full Retirement Age (although COLAs apply annually).


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