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Can My Wife Claim Half My Benefit?

Not if she took her own benefit early — there will be a penalty

Q. My wife is 62 and has filed for early Social Security benefits based on her own earnings history. I'm 63 and don't plan to file until I reach 66, my full retirement age. When my wife turns 66, can she file for half of my benefit, which would be larger than the reduced check she's currently receiving?

A. You ask an interesting question. But you may be disappointed with the answer.

See also: When to begin Social Security benefits?

Your wife can file for a spousal benefit as soon as you file for your retirement benefits. But because she took her own Social Security at 62, her benefits will be permanently reduced. Thus she won't be eligible to receive half of your full benefit — regardless of when she files.

For more information, read "Benefits for your spouse."

Also see "Retirement benefits by year of birth."

You may also like: Top 25 Social Security questions. >>

Stan Hinden, a former columnist for the Washington Post, wrote How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire. Have a question for the Social Security Mailbox? Check out the archive. If you don't find your answer there, send a query.

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