Claiming your Spousal Social Security Benefit Early

Question: "Can a spouse take their spousal benefit before they could take their own benefit?"

Answer: The earliest one can claim their benefit or a spousal benefit is age 62 and doing so will result in a permanent reduction in your benefit based on your full retirement age.  

Below is a table from that shows the reduction of benefits when claiming at age 62

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Source: Social Security Administration

In order to claim a spousal benefit, Spouse #2 must wait until Spouse #1 begins drawing benefits on their own record. Spouse #2 must wait until age 62 to claim a spousal benefit even if Spouse #1 is already taking their benefit on their own record.  

*Any early claiming of benefits will result in a permanent reduction in benefits. The only caveat to this is if you are caring for a qualifying child, we mean a child who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits could allow you to claim earlier. 

Also: The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 made some changes to Social Security’s laws about filing for retirement and spousal benefits. 

If you turn age 62 on or after January 2, 2016, you CANNOT apply only for spouse’s benefits and delay filing for your own retirement benefit in order to earn delayed retirement credits. You are required or “deemed” to file for both your own retirement and for any benefits you are due as a spouse, no matter what age you are.  

Deemed filing means that when you file for either your retirement or your spouse’s benefit, you are required or “deemed” to file for the other benefit as well.  

The rules for deemed filing apply only to retirement benefits based on your own work record and to the spousal benefits (including divorced spouses) you receive based on retirement. If you receive a spousal benefit because you are caring for a child who is under age 16 or disabled or if you receive spouse's benefits and are also entitled to disability, deemed filing does not apply and you are therefore not required or “deemed” to file for your retirement benefit. 

Social Security can be very nuanced and claiming strategies should not be made without consideration of the rest of one’s financial plan. Social Security is foundational to most retirement income strategies and when you claim should be personalized to your circumstances. 

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By Gage Paul, CFP®, RICP®, EA 

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