Spouse Awaits Full Retirement Age for Money

Dear Retirement Adviser, 

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My wife is 80 years old, while I am 65 with a birthday in May. I continue to work. I'm wondering: Can I claim Social Security through my wife for extra income? I plan to wait a year before applying for my own Social Security. That should allow me to take advantage of the 8% annual gain. What is the best course of action for us?


-Tom Teeters

Dear Tom, 

Since you're still working with no immediate plans to retire, you shouldn't file for a spousal benefit until your full retirement age, which is 66. If you were to file for the spousal benefit before full retirement age, you would be able to take the spousal benefit while earning delayed retirement credits on your work record through age 70.

If you are younger than full retirement age and qualify on your own record, Social Security first pays you based on your own work record. Only when you qualify for a higher amount as a spouse may you receive a combination of benefits equal to the higher amount.

Filing before your full retirement age could also subject you to the retirement earnings test. That, in turn, could prompt the Social Security Administration to withhold benefits. Since you're already within a year of your normal retirement age, the earnings limit is fairly high. It only applies to earnings obtained in the prior month when you reach normal retirement age. Still, you would want to wait until May to file for the spousal benefit.

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