I took my Social Security benefit at 62. My husband is six years younger, and I assumed that since I took my benefit early, I wouldn't be entitled to half of his benefit when he takes it at 66. Yesterday, some friends said I would be entitled to half his benefit, which is an amount greater than my current benefit. What’s the right answer?

You may qualify for a spousal benefit when your husband takes Social Security, but because you took your own benefit early, you won’t be entitled to half the amount he collects.

Here are the rules:

When you file early for Social Security, you’re automatically applying for all the benefits you qualify to receive. If you’re eligible for your own benefit and a spousal benefit, for example, you get an amount equal to the larger of the two. And you can't later reapply.

But when you applied, you weren't yet eligible for a spousal benefit because your husband hadn't yet filed for Social Security. After he does, you can apply for a spousal benefit for the first time.

That might not boost your monthly check, however. Here's an example of the formula the Social Security Administration uses to determine your spousal benefit.

Let's assume you were born between 1946 and 1954, and that at your full retirement age (FRA), your benefit would have been $1,000. At 62, you got only $750.

If your husband's FRA benefit is $2,500, a 50% spousal benefit is $1,250. To determine your actual spousal benefit, the Social Security Administration subtracts your $1,000 FRA benefit from the $1,250 maximum spousal benefit. The result is $250. Therefore $250 will be added to your $750 benefit. Your new benefit will be $1,000, not $1,250.

The bottom line

Early application always reduces Social Security benefits.

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