Social Security spousal benefits

Sharon – Virginia: I have your updated Social Security book, but I’m still confused about something. I’m 62 and my husband will turn 62 later this year. He has had cancer for two years and is doing well at the present time. Can I claim Social Security now on my record without lowering what I will get if he does not survive his cancer? Can I file for a spousal benefit without him having filed for his own benefit? We are trying to have him wait until 66 and a half since his benefits are about twice mine.

Phil Moeller: I’m sorry to hear about your husband’s cancer. Good luck to both of you.

If you file for your own benefit now, it will be locked in for the rest of your life and will not increase (except for annual cost of living adjustments). You are not eligible for a spousal benefit until he files for his own benefit.

If he passes away before filing for his own benefit, you would be entitled to a survivor benefit that would equal the benefit he would have received had he filed for Social Security on the day of his death. I know this is a bit macabre, but that’s how the agency determines survivor benefits for people who die before they have filed.

If he does file for his own benefit and you then file for a spousal benefit, you would automatically trigger the filing of your own retirement benefit. Social Security would pay you an amount equal to the larger of the two benefits.

If your husband died before you reached your own full retirement age, you could file for your own retirement benefit right away and then file for your survivor benefit, which would reach its maximum amount if you waited until your FRA to file for it. I hope this helps.