Spousal benefits at age 66


Q: I am 63 and under Federal Employees Retirement System as a 1998 FERS transfer. My wife is 65 and collecting Social Security as of age 62. When I turn 66, my full retirement age, am I allowed to collect a full spousal benefit of half of her monthly benefit without penalty? If this is possible, I could then delay taking my own benefit until age 70 and collect the maximum under my own earnings (less the Windfall Elimination Provision penalty) which is substantially more than my full benefit at age 66.

A: Here are the rules. As a spouse, you are entitled to half of the retired worker’s full Social Security benefit unless you begin collecting benefits before reaching full Social Security retirement age. The reduction in that case is proportional to the number of months you are under full retirement age. When you begin collecting your own Social Security benefit, the Social Security Administration will first pay your benefit; then, if your benefit as a spouse is higher than your retirement benefit, you’ll get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. If your benefit is higher than the spouse benefit, you’ll only get that.


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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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