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Can I file for my Social Security at 62 and switch to spousal benefits later?

Only if your spouse is not yet receiving retirement benefits. In this case, you can claim your own Social Security beginning at 62 and make the switch to spousal benefits when your husband or wife files. Social Security will not pay the sum of your retirement and spousal benefits; you’ll get a payment equal to the higher of the two benefits.

If your spouse is already getting Social Security when you claim benefits, you are subject to the “deemed filing” rule. Under this provision, you don’t have a choice whether to wait and switch. When you apply for your retirement benefit, you’re also automatically deemed to be applying for spousal benefits, if you're entitled to them. Again, Social Security will pay the greater of the two benefit amounts.

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The top spousal benefit is 50 percent of your husband's or wife's primary insurance amount (the retirement benefit he or she is entitled to at full retirement age, which is 66 and 4 months for people born in 1956, 66 and 6 months for those born in 1957, and gradually increasing to 67). You can get that maximum if you first claim benefits at your own full retirement age; the amount is reduced if you file earlier.

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That includes if you file early for your retirement benefit — say, at 62, as in this scenario — and switch to spousal benefits later. Even if you are at full retirement age when you file for spousal benefits, your total monthly payment will be less than half of your spouse’s primary insurance amount, reflecting the fact that your initial Social Security claim came early.

Keep in mind

There are three exceptions to the deemed-filing rule for spouses. You can file what’s called a “restricted application” for just spousal benefits if any of these is true: