I'm 66 years old, but I plan to work until age 70 and delay applying for Social Security to maximize my benefit. My wife is also 66. She didn't qualify for Social Security on her own, but as my spouse she'll be entitled to 50% of my benefit. It's my understanding that her spousal benefit won't include the extra credits I'll get for taking my benefit at age 70. When can she receive her spousal benefit? Can she start it at 66, or must she wait until I start receiving my benefit?

She'll have to wait. Regardless of her age, she can't apply for a spousal benefit based on your work record until you file for Social Security.

When someone delays their Social Security application past their full retirement age (FRA), their benefit is increased annually for up to four years. In your case, the postponement will earn delayed retirement credits (DRCs) that boost your benefit by 8% a year. (You'll also get any Social Security cost-of-living increases during those four years.)

You're right that postponing your application won't increase your wife's spousal benefit. During your lifetime, the most she can collect based on your work record is 50% of the amount you're entitled to receive at your FRA. But if she outlives you, your DRCs will be included in her survivor benefit.

One warning: Don't assume you can delay filing for Medicare until you're 70. Even if you're covered for health insurance through your job, your Medicare application deadline depends partly on how many people are covered in your employer's plan. There are big penalties for applying late. Find out your Medicare filing deadline, and don't miss it!

The bottom line

Your spouse can’t file for Social Security based on your work record until you file your own application.

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TO ASK THE EXPERT Send questions to act2@newsday.com. Include your name, address and phone numbers. Questions can be answered only in this column. Advice is offered as general guidance. Check with your own consultants for your specific needs.


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