Special Rules that raise the benefits of the lower-earning spouse-most often the wife-generally make claiming later an attractive option for married men.
The spousal benefit
If both husband and wife have claimed benefits, each is guaranteed half what the other would get at the Full Retirement Age (whih used to be 65, is now 66, and will be 67).
- Spousal benefits are reduced up to 35% if claimed before the recipient’s Full Retirement Age.
The survivor benefit
Widow(er)s can keep their own benefit or, if they chose, instead claim a survivor benefit equal to their spouse’s monthly benefit.
- Survivor benefits are available as early as age 60, or age 50 if disabled, but are reduced up to 28.5% if claimed before the recipient’s Full Retirement Age.
- Survivor benefits almost always go to widows, as most survivors are women (wives are generally younger than their husbands and live longer) and most wives have lower monthly benefits (they generally ear less and start to collect at younger ages).
Ex-spouses are entitled to these benefits if the marriage lasted 10 years.
Husbands can get more for their wives
Most wives will outlive their husband, by about 7 years on average, and most widows get their husband’s higher monthly benefit in place of their own.
A husband can increase the monthly benefit his wife gets as his survivor more than 20% if he claims Social Security at 66, no 62, and 60% if he claims at 70.
*Claiming later could be the most effective way a husband can improve his wife’s long-term financial security.
© 2009, by Trustees of Boston College, Center for Retirement Research