Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

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celentano
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Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Sat May 11, 2019 11:25 am

I am sorry, if this question is already answered. I could not find it. Here is the simple situation:

Wife is 62 (very soon) and husband is 61 years old now.
Wife's expected benefit at age 62 is about $300 and Husband's expected benefit at FRA (66+) is about $1600.
Can wife start collecting $300 at age 62 and an additional $500 (=800-300) when Husband reaches FRA of 66+?

I have been hearing conflicting answers.

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celia
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celia » Sat May 11, 2019 11:38 am

Wife can only collect half of her spouse’s benefit if she waits to FRA and husband has started taking his at his FRA.

If she starts her own at 62, she will get a reduced benefit. Then at her FRA, since she was already getting a reduced benefit, her spousal will be reduced.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Sat May 11, 2019 11:45 am

Thanks for quick response. So, you are saying Wife could start getting $300 this year and add about $400 (assuming reduction is $100 as an example) when Husband starts collecting his $1500 at his FRA (note that Husband is 1 year younger), right?

Bacchus01
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Bacchus01 » Sat May 11, 2019 11:54 am

Use opensocialsecurity online tool. It’ll help you reconcile the options. It’s free

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Sat May 11, 2019 12:04 pm

OK, thanks
Last edited by celentano on Sat May 11, 2019 12:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Sat May 11, 2019 12:06 pm

celentano wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 12:04 pm
I will play with it, thanks.

IowaFarmBoy
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by IowaFarmBoy » Sat May 11, 2019 1:42 pm

celentano wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 11:45 am
Thanks for quick response. So, you are saying Wife could start getting $300 this year and add about $400 (assuming reduction is $100 as an example) when Husband starts collecting his $1500 at his FRA (note that Husband is 1 year younger), right?
That is my understanding. Technically, I believe the way it works is that she continues to receive her reduced benefit (say a $400 PIA at FRA reduced to $300 for drawing early) plus enough spousal benefit to make the total of her PIA benefit and her spousal benefit equal to one half of his. If her PIA was $400 and her spouses benefit was $1600, she would get $400 in spousal benefit (half of $1660 = $800 - her PIA of $400) plus she would continue to draw her reduced $300 benefit for a total of $700.

note: I am assuming the husband's PIA amount is the $1600 amount mentioned in the original post. It seems like the OP may have switched the amount to $1500 in the response that I quoted. At least that is how I interpreted the info.....

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David Jay
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by David Jay » Sat May 11, 2019 9:42 pm

Here is the formula:

If you file at Full Retirement Age (FRA) and collect a benefit of $1500, she will receive:
1. Personal benefit of $300 continues. This is reduction of $144 from her FRA benefit for filing early (this is required information for step 2).
2. She will receive a spousal of $1500/2 (50% of your FRA benefit) - $300 (spousal benefit) - $144 114 (early filing reduction) = $306 336
For a total of $606 636 /mo.

Note, this assumes that her birthdate is 1957 (as is mine) and her FRA is 66 years 6 months.

[edit] my bad, copied 114 from my calculator as 144. Carl (below) corrected my oops.
Last edited by David Jay on Sun May 12, 2019 11:58 am, edited 1 time in total.
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dwickenh
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by dwickenh » Sat May 11, 2019 10:10 pm

celia wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 11:38 am
Wife can only collect half of her spouse’s benefit if she waits to FRA and husband has started taking his at his FRA.

If she starts her own at 62, she will get a reduced benefit. Then at her FRA, since she was already getting a reduced benefit, her spousal will be reduced.
If she waits until her own FRA, her Spousal benefit will not be reduced, but her original benefit reduction will remain.

At FRA she will receive 800.00 less the 100.00 she gave up filing early for a benefit of 700.00.

Her early filing for her own benefit will not reduce her spousal as long as her husband waits until her FRA to file for his benefit.

If he files early, then her benefit for spousal will start early and be reduced.

This is the way I understand the filing sequence.
The market is the most efficient mechanism anywhere in the world for transferring wealth from impatient people to patient people.” | — Warren Buffett

Carl53
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Carl53 » Sun May 12, 2019 4:33 am

David Jay wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 9:42 pm
Here is the formula:

If you file at Full Retirement Age (FRA) and collect a benefit of $1500, she will receive:
1. Personal benefit of $300 continues. This is reduction of $144 from her FRA benefit for filing early (this is required information for step 2).
2. She will receive a spousal of $1500/2 (50% of your FRA benefit) - $300 (spousal benefit) - $144 (early filing reduction) = $306
For a total of $606/mo.

Note, this assumes that her birthdate is 1957 (as is mine) and her FRA is 66 years 6 months.
Apparently her birth year is 1957 and her FRA is 66 years 6 months. Therefore filing at age 62 she will be 54 months prior to her FRA. Her benefit is reduced 5/9% for each of the first 36 months she is early or 20% plus an additional 5/12% per month for the additional 18 months or 7.5% for a total reduction of 27.5%. Her age 62 benefit is thus 72.5% of her FRA amount ($300/.725= $414 FRA/PIA). Her early filing reduction is $114. Substitute this number into the above example and you would get $636 once the husband files at FRA and she takes her spousal.

If they can afford to wait, I believe most SS optimizers are going to recommend for the husband to wait until age 70 to provide a greater widow's benefit and slightly higher NPV.

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Watty
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Watty » Sun May 12, 2019 7:59 am

David Jay wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 9:42 pm
Here is the formula:

If you file at Full Retirement Age (FRA) and collect a benefit of $1500, she will receive:
1. Personal benefit of $300 continues. This is reduction of $144 from her FRA benefit for filing early (this is required information for step 2).
2. She will receive a spousal of $1500/2 (50% of your FRA benefit) - $300 (spousal benefit) - $144 (early filing reduction) = $306
For a total of $606/mo.

Note, this assumes that her birthdate is 1957 (as is mine) and her FRA is 66 years 6 months.
That is how I understand it work too. A few things to note.

1) If you delay starting your Social Security past your FRA to get a larger benefit later she cannot get the increase until you start yours. Her amount also does not increase above the $606 she would have gotten at your FRA, except for inflation adjustments.

2) If she outlives you then she will get your larger Social Security amount including any additional increases for delaying it beyond your FRA without the $144 a month reduction for starting it early.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Sun May 12, 2019 8:16 am

Carl53 and Watty, I think I am getting this... The total spousal benefit amount at Husband's FRA is (50% of the Husband's benefit) minus (Spouse's benefit amount at age 62) minus (Amount of reduction at age 62). We need to know THREE figures: Her benefit at age 62, Her benefit at Age 66.5 and Husband's benefit at his FRA. That is it, right?

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Kenkat
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Kenkat » Sun May 12, 2019 9:00 am

celentano wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 8:16 am
Carl53 and Watty, I think I am getting this... The total spousal benefit amount at Husband's FRA is (50% of the Husband's benefit) minus (Spouse's benefit amount at age 62) minus (Amount of reduction at age 62). We need to know THREE figures: Her benefit at age 62, Her benefit at Age 66.5 and Husband's benefit at his FRA. That is it, right?
The calculator previously mentioned at opensocialsecurity.com will perform all of the calculations for you as well as show the breakdown of each by year.

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David Jay
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by David Jay » Sun May 12, 2019 11:54 am

Carl53 wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 4:33 am
David Jay wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 9:42 pm
Here is the formula:

If you file at Full Retirement Age (FRA) and collect a benefit of $1500, she will receive:
1. Personal benefit of $300 continues. This is reduction of $144 from her FRA benefit for filing early (this is required information for step 2).
2. She will receive a spousal of $1500/2 (50% of your FRA benefit) - $300 (spousal benefit) - $144 (early filing reduction) = $306
For a total of $606/mo.

Note, this assumes that her birthdate is 1957 (as is mine) and her FRA is 66 years 6 months.
Apparently her birth year is 1957 and her FRA is 66 years 6 months. Therefore filing at age 62 she will be 54 months prior to her FRA. Her benefit is reduced 5/9% for each of the first 36 months she is early or 20% plus an additional 5/12% per month for the additional 18 months or 7.5% for a total reduction of 27.5%. Her age 62 benefit is thus 72.5% of her FRA amount ($300/.725= $414 FRA/PIA). Her early filing reduction is $114. Substitute this number into the above example and you would get $636 once the husband files at FRA and she takes her spousal.

If they can afford to wait, I believe most SS optimizers are going to recommend for the husband to wait until age 70 to provide a greater widow's benefit and slightly higher NPV.
Oops, transcription error (114 is correct, not 144). I will correct above as well for clarity
Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future - Niels Bohr | To get the "risk premium", you really do have to take the risk - nisiprius

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Sun May 12, 2019 12:36 pm

Thanks everyone (IowaFarmBoy, David Jay, Dwickenh, Carl53, Watty and Kenkat) for taking the time and making this clear in my head! All answers are CONSISTENT IN CONCEPT. I understand the variations in figures due to typos, etc. I even made one myself when I used $1500 instead of $1600 original figure.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Tue May 14, 2019 8:16 am

David Jay wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 11:54 am
Carl53 wrote:
Sun May 12, 2019 4:33 am
David Jay wrote:
Sat May 11, 2019 9:42 pm
Here is the formula:

If you file at Full Retirement Age (FRA) and collect a benefit of $1500, she will receive:
1. Personal benefit of $300 continues. This is reduction of $144 from her FRA benefit for filing early (this is required information for step 2).
2. She will receive a spousal of $1500/2 (50% of your FRA benefit) - $300 (spousal benefit) - $144 (early filing reduction) = $306
For a total of $606/mo.

Note, this assumes that her birthdate is 1957 (as is mine) and her FRA is 66 years 6 months.
Apparently her birth year is 1957 and her FRA is 66 years 6 months. Therefore filing at age 62 she will be 54 months prior to her FRA. Her benefit is reduced 5/9% for each of the first 36 months she is early or 20% plus an additional 5/12% per month for the additional 18 months or 7.5% for a total reduction of 27.5%. Her age 62 benefit is thus 72.5% of her FRA amount ($300/.725= $414 FRA/PIA). Her early filing reduction is $114. Substitute this number into the above example and you would get $636 once the husband files at FRA and she takes her spousal.

If they can afford to wait, I believe most SS optimizers are going to recommend for the husband to wait until age 70 to provide a greater widow's benefit and slightly higher NPV.
Oops, transcription error (114 is correct, not 144). I will correct above as well for clarity
Sorry, I am back... Is there any official document anywhere that states this rule? The rule everyone is agreeing: Wife will get in total (including her own) 50% of Husband's benefit minus the amount she had given up by starting to collect at age 62 assuming Husband files at his FRA.

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HueyLD
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by HueyLD » Tue May 14, 2019 10:55 am

Here is the official link https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0300615020#a

I need to make a correction to David Jay's calculation. He forgot to reduce the wife's benefit by 27.5%, the early claiming penalty. This penalty applies to both her own benefit and her wife's benefit.

So, here we go:

750-414=336x72.5%=243
414x72.5=300
Her combined benefit=243+300=543

It is a complicated calculation.

Carl53
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Carl53 » Tue May 14, 2019 12:08 pm

HueyLD wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 10:55 am
Here is the official link https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/lnx/0300615020#a

I need to make a correction to David Jay's calculation. He forgot to reduce the wife's benefit by 27.5%, the early claiming penalty. This penalty applies to both her own benefit and her wife's benefit.

So, here we go:

750-414=336x72.5%=243
414x72.5=300
Her combined benefit=243+300=543

It is a complicated calculation.
Highlighted portion of her benefits would not be reduced to 72.5% as she indicated that she would be claiming spousal at FRA+.
Last edited by Carl53 on Tue May 14, 2019 12:09 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Tue May 14, 2019 12:09 pm

HueyLD, that sounds very harsh... I hope you are wrong. I am not able to find any rule stating this on the link you attached. Thanks anyway.

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HueyLD
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by HueyLD » Tue May 14, 2019 12:58 pm

The SSA link says:

“Method C - A spouse is entitled to a benefit of $1000 before reduction. She is also entitled to a RIB of $400 before reduction. The full RIB is subtracted from the full spouse benefit. The excess ($600) is then reduced to $540. The RIB is reduced to $380. The total payable is $920, the sum of the reduced spouse excess and the reduced RIB.”

The spousal portion is reduced by early claim in the example (the excess ($600) is then reduced to $540))

You can always call the SSA for an official confirmation.

P.s. If she claims her spousal benefit at her FRA, there won’t be any reduction of her spousal portion. But the example shows that she would claim her own and the spousal at the same time, i.e. age 62.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Tue May 14, 2019 6:23 pm

It was a great idea to call SSA. I called my local SSA office. She seemed to understand exactly what I was asking and said that it is a common issue that they deal with all the time. She said that when wife files for spousal after her FRA, at that time, they take what she is making and top it off to 50% of what husband is making regardless of whether or not her benefits were reduced for filing at 62. So, she will continue to get $300 plus another $450, total of $750 (which is 50% of the husband's benefit at his FRA. I guess every body got this wrong on this thread. That is OK, this stuff is very complicated. Fortunately the lady at SSA office was very familiar with this situation.

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by vtMaps » Tue May 14, 2019 6:30 pm

celentano wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:23 pm
I guess every body got this wrong on this thread. That is OK, this stuff is very complicated. Fortunately the lady at SSA office was very familiar with this situation.
She was not familiar enough to give you correct information.

--vtMaps
The optimist proclaims that we live in the best of all possible worlds; and the pessimist fears this is true. --James Branch Cabell

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue May 14, 2019 6:36 pm

celentano wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:23 pm
It was a great idea to call SSA. I called my local SSA office. She seemed to understand exactly what I was asking and said that it is a common issue that they deal with all the time. She said that when wife files for spousal after her FRA, at that time, they take what she is making and top it off to 50% of what husband is making regardless of whether or not her benefits were reduced for filing at 62. So, she will continue to get $300 plus another $450, total of $750 (which is 50% of the husband's benefit at his FRA. I guess every body got this wrong on this thread. That is OK, this stuff is very complicated. Fortunately the lady at SSA office was very familiar with this situation.
I have no idea who is right. I will say, I wouldn't trust what one employee at SSA (or the IRS or any other government agency) told me as gospel about anything important. They have been shown to be lacking in accuracy on many occasions.

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Carl53 » Wed May 15, 2019 5:24 am

For some expert advice on the topic, I suggest you use the search box for 'social security spouse sscritic'.

Here is one such link from 10 years ago. He notes that of several instances that the SSA rep giving bad advice as well as providing a wealth of knowledge.
viewtopic.php?t=43428

Sadly SS grandmaster sscritic no longer is allowed to post on this forum, but there is a treasure trove of old posts in the archives, most which are still relevant. I believe the only topics no longer relevant would be file and suspend and the soon to expire restricted filing option.

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Bacchus01 » Wed May 15, 2019 5:31 am

celentano wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:23 pm
It was a great idea to call SSA. I called my local SSA office. She seemed to understand exactly what I was asking and said that it is a common issue that they deal with all the time. She said that when wife files for spousal after her FRA, at that time, they take what she is making and top it off to 50% of what husband is making regardless of whether or not her benefits were reduced for filing at 62. So, she will continue to get $300 plus another $450, total of $750 (which is 50% of the husband's benefit at his FRA. I guess every body got this wrong on this thread. That is OK, this stuff is very complicated. Fortunately the lady at SSA office was very familiar with this situation.
I would not trust the word of one SSA representative over the overwhelming information to the contrary, including the information readily available on the SS website.

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by HueyLD » Wed May 15, 2019 6:45 am

Carl53 wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 5:24 am
For some expert advice on the topic, I suggest you use the search box for 'social security spouse sscritic'.

Here is one such link from 10 years ago. He notes that of several instances that the SSA rep giving bad advice as well as providing a wealth of knowledge.
viewtopic.php?t=43428

Sadly SS grandmaster sscritic no longer is allowed to post on this forum, but there is a treasure trove of old posts in the archives, most which are still relevant. I believe the only topics no longer relevant would be file and suspend and the soon to expire restricted filing option.
+100.

However, my understanding is that sscritic is still alive and kicking and doing very well in life. Good for him and a big loss for the forum.

Back to the OP. You were given inaccurate advice by "one" SSA employee and that's unfortunate. I thought the collective advice on this forum was clear, including the links. If you are still unclear, please ask again.

And it is unfortunate that people like to paint a broad brush on the competency of SSA employees. FWIW, I worked in various private companies all my life and I have received a lot more bad information, lies, etc. from corporate employees than from government employees.

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Silk McCue » Wed May 15, 2019 7:29 am

celentano wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:23 pm
It was a great idea to call SSA. I called my local SSA office. She seemed to understand exactly what I was asking and said that it is a common issue that they deal with all the time. She said that when wife files for spousal after her FRA, at that time, they take what she is making and top it off to 50% of what husband is making regardless of whether or not her benefits were reduced for filing at 62. So, she will continue to get $300 plus another $450, total of $750 (which is 50% of the husband's benefit at his FRA. I guess every body got this wrong on this thread. That is OK, this stuff is very complicated. Fortunately the lady at SSA office was very familiar with this situation.
It is clear to me that you did not use the opensocialsecurity.com tool If you will do that today, providing completely accurate dates and amounts and then enter the dates matching your proposed scenario in "Test an alternative claiming strategy" at the bottom of the page you will get the correct answer. I have already done this exercise using approximations of your data (your FRA amount, and you and your spouses birthdates). Give this a whirl and then please report back the precise FRA amounts for both of you, claiming months and years and then the amounts received once you have a FULL year of benefits for both of you (including both components of your benefit separately) once you start getting spousal.

Cheers

Carl53
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Carl53 » Wed May 15, 2019 7:37 am

Silk McCue wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 7:29 am
celentano wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 6:23 pm
It was a great idea to call SSA. I called my local SSA office. She seemed to understand exactly what I was asking and said that it is a common issue that they deal with all the time. She said that when wife files for spousal after her FRA, at that time, they take what she is making and top it off to 50% of what husband is making regardless of whether or not her benefits were reduced for filing at 62. So, she will continue to get $300 plus another $450, total of $750 (which is 50% of the husband's benefit at his FRA. I guess every body got this wrong on this thread. That is OK, this stuff is very complicated. Fortunately the lady at SSA office was very familiar with this situation.
It is clear to me that you did not use the opensocialsecurity.com tool If you will do that today, providing completely accurate dates and amounts and then enter the dates matching your proposed scenario in "Test an alternative claiming strategy" at the bottom of the page you will get the correct answer. I have already done this exercise using approximations of your data (your FRA amount, and you and your spouses birthdates). Give this a whirl and then please report back the precise FRA amounts for both of you, claiming months and years and then the amounts received once you have a FULL year of benefits for both of you (including both components of your benefit separately) once you start getting spousal.

Cheers
+1

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Wed May 15, 2019 8:04 pm

Today I called FIVE other SSA offices in my state. TWO said the same thing I heard the other day, TWO said what I heard from you guys and ONE had no clue what I was asking, he kept saying I had to submit an application to find out the benefit. I said "you can go back to your sleep. I am sorry I interrupted it" and I hung up the phone. I thought I share this experience with forum.

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One Ping
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by One Ping » Thu May 16, 2019 9:44 am

I ran opensocialsecurity for this scenario.

Here are the inputs:

Your Information:
Marital Status: Married
Gender: Male
Birthdate: 12/15/1957
Have you already filed for retirement benefits?: No.
PIA: $1,600

Your Spouse’s Information:
Gender: Female
Birthdate: 7/15/1957
PIA: $411 (NOTE: This PIA gives an age 62 benefit of $300.)

The results show:
Spouses Monthly Retirement Benefit: $300
Spouses Monthly Spousal Benefit: $389
Spouses Monthly Total Benefit: $689

If the husbands PIA is $1500 then:
Spouses Monthly Retirement Benefit: $300
Spouses Monthly Spousal Benefit: $339
Spouses Monthly Total Benefit: $639
"Re-verify our range to target ... one ping only."

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Chip Munk
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by Chip Munk » Thu May 16, 2019 4:35 pm

celentano wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 8:04 pm
Today I called FIVE other SSA offices in my state. TWO said the same thing I heard the other day, TWO said what I heard from you guys and ONE had no clue what I was asking, he kept saying I had to submit an application to find out the benefit. I said "you can go back to your sleep. I am sorry I interrupted it" and I hung up the phone. I thought I share this experience with forum.
It's disappointing that one cannot trust the responses from SSA employees. I think your time would be better spent entering your data into opensocialsecurity.com as others have suggested. It was developed by a Social Security expert. It's free, it's easy to use, and most importantly, it provides correct information.

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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by TropikThunder » Fri May 17, 2019 12:34 am

Chip Munk wrote:
Thu May 16, 2019 4:35 pm
celentano wrote:
Wed May 15, 2019 8:04 pm
Today I called FIVE other SSA offices in my state. TWO said the same thing I heard the other day, TWO said what I heard from you guys and ONE had no clue what I was asking, he kept saying I had to submit an application to find out the benefit. I said "you can go back to your sleep. I am sorry I interrupted it" and I hung up the phone. I thought I share this experience with forum.
It's disappointing that one cannot trust the responses from SSA employees. I think your time would be better spent entering your data into opensocialsecurity.com as others have suggested. It was developed by a Social Security expert. It's free, it's easy to use, and most importantly, it provides correct information.
Agreed. The bottom line is that both the spouse's own benefit and her spousal add-on are reduced if they are both claimed before Full Retirement Age (FRA). The amount of reduction is calculated separately based on when benefits are claimed, but they are both reduced. The opensocialsecurity tool clearly shows this.

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celentano
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by celentano » Fri May 17, 2019 3:04 pm

Yes, opensocialsecurity tool results make more sens to me than random answers I am getting from SSA offices. Today I called three more SSA offices just for curiosity... Same outcome: INCONSISTENCY. I am completely satisfied about what the correct answer is in my situation based on the consistent input from numerous responds on this thread and the opensocialsecurity tool calculations.

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2pedals
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Re: Can wife Top off her Social Security benefits?

Post by 2pedals » Fri May 17, 2019 3:54 pm

The following tool provides a view of the calculations.

https://socialsecurity.tools/app.html

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