spousal age difference affects Social Security strategy

July 15, 2021

Question: C.A. in Kenwood: I’m 60 and 8 years older than my wife. We’ve been married for 30 years. I’ve been the one to work during most of our relationship while she hasn’t (though she’s had some part-time work). I want to retire in a few years, so I’m just wondering when I should take Social Security and if our age difference plays into the decision.

A: Yes, your age difference definitely will play into this decision. As does the fact that it sounds like your Social Security benefit will be significantly higher than your wife’s benefit on her own work record.

As you think through your strategy, there are two different types of Social Security benefits for married couples to keep in mind. First is the ‘spousal’ benefit. Once your wife reaches her full retirement age (FRA) of 67, she can receive 50% of however much your benefit will be at your full retirement age (no matter when you started claiming). For example, if your full benefit at your FRA (also 67) is $1,000 a month, she can claim a spousal benefit at her FRA and receive $500 a month. If she claims before her FRA, that amount is permanently reduced; if she claims after her FRA there’s no increase. So, when it comes to the spousal benefit, everything really depends on your wife’s age at which she’ll claim this benefit.