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AARP's Social Security Q&A Tool

If I apply for early retirement benefits and switch to a spouse benefit when I reach full retirement age, will the benefit be reduced?

Spousal benefits are calculated by subtracting your monthly benefit at full retirement age(FRA) from 1/2 of the full retirement benefit of your spouse.  If you claim only your benefit early the benefit on your record will be permanently reduced.  If you then claim a spousal benefit at 66 the spousal benefit will not be reduced and it will be added to your reduced benefit.  As a result, the amount you receive will be higher than if you had claimed both at the same time but below 50% of the benefit.  For example, lets say your monthly benefit at FRA is $1000 and your spouses FRA benefit is $2400.  Your spousal benefit would be $200(2400/2=1200-1000=200).  If you claim your benefit at 62 it would be reduced by 25% to $750.  When you claim the spousal benefit at FRA you will receive the extra $200 for a total of $950.

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