Spousal Social Security Benefits


Q: My wife only worked for 11 years and based on the annual statements she receives from the Social Security Administration, she can only expect to receive about $300 a month at age 62. She is 5 years older than me and I plan on retiring under FERS at age 60 and drawing my Social Security at 62. Recently someone mentioned if her full amount was less than half mine she would get half of mine. This sounds like a better deal, but trying to get the facts on this from the SSA Web site without a background in cryptography is virtually impossible. I keep running into something that leads me to believe I would have to wait until my full retirement age for her to get half of mine. Can she still get half if I retire at 62?

A: When your wife begins receiving Social Security benefits, you would be entitled to a spousal benefit when you reached age 62, not before. The spousal benefit would be one-half of her benefit. Regardless of the age at which you apply for your Social Security benefit, she would be entitled to receive the larger of the two benefits, the one based on her own work record or the spousal benefit based on your work record. If, as is likely, your earned benefit was larger than the spousal benefit based on her work record, you would only be entitled to your own benefit. In short, either of you is only entitled to the larger of two benefits.


About Author

Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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