Staking Claim to Spouse's Social Security

Dear Dr. Don,

My husband is 67 and I'm 64. He's drawing Social Security and still working. I'm also still working. Can I also draw a portion of his Social Security until I turn 66 and draw my own?

-Kay Collects

Dear Kay,

Because he's drawing Social Security, you can apply for benefits. The Social Security Administration will determine your monthly benefit based on your work record and the spousal benefit.

Prior to full retirement age, you can't pick and choose whether you're taking the spousal benefit or the benefits based on your work record. If the spousal benefit is higher than what you're entitled under your own work record, the spousal work record accounts for the remainder of the benefits you can collect.

Below is an example, where the total monthly benefit would be $1,000:

Determining Social Security benefit Amount entitled based on own work record: $750 Amount entitled based on spouse's work record: $1,000 How the $1,000 benefit is paid by SSA: Own work record benefit: $750 Spouse's work record benefit: $250 Total benefit: $1,000

At full retirement age, you can choose to receive the spousal benefit of 50% of his primary insurance amount, or PIA, while continuing to earn delayed retirement credits on your record until age 70. Talk to a financial planner if you're not sure which approach is right for you.

You also must consider how earnings limitations would affect your benefits. Your husband no longer has that concern because he's at full retirement age. You do. You can use the Social Security Administration's retirement earnings test calculator to see if there's an issue with you working and receiving benefits. Also take a look at its online publication, "You can work and get Social Security at the same time," or "How Work Affects Your Benefits."

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