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When I turn 62, can I collect a spousal benefit on my ex-spouse's Social Security record and then switch to my own benefit at full retirement age?

No. If you claim benefits before full retirement age, which is currently 66, and your former spouse is living, you will always collect benefits on your own record first. If you are eligible for a higher payment on the ex-spouse's record, you will receive a combination of benefits equal to the higher amount. Claiming early will permanently reduce both benefits.

However, if you were born before Jan. 2, 1954, and you delay filing for benefits until full retirement age, you can use this strategy of switching from one benefit to the other. When you reach full retirement age you can file a "restricted application" for the ex-spousal benefit and delay filing for your retirement benefit. This way, you can earn delayed retirement credits, increasing your benefit by 8 percent for each year you delay, up to age 70.

If you were born after Jan. 1, 1954, you have to file for your own benefit first, even if you have reached full retirement age.

Keep in mind

  • As noted, the above applies if your former spouse is still alive. If your ex is deceased and you qualify for survivor benefits on his or her record, you can claim these as early as age 60, in most cases — and switch to your own benefit later.

 

Published October 10, 2018

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