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Social Security Q&A

How to manage spousal benefits a common question for Social Security

This week’s questions focus on women, the predominate recipients of Social Security

Social Security


March 18, 2015 – This week’s Social Security Q&A has two topics that are of particular interest to women, who make up 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older. Included is another complicated question abut how to best handle spousal benefits.


I will be turning 66 the same month that my wife turns 62.  She never worked outside of our home. If I sign up to take my SS then suspend it in order to have her receive spousal benefits, I understand that she will take a lower spousal benefit because she is starting at age 62. Will my suspended benefits be paid to me in a lump sum when I resume them later at age 70?  Does her spousal benefit increase when she reaches age 66?


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Her spousal benefit will stay at the same rate from when she started it.  So if she starts at age 62, it will be about 35% of your full benefit amount.  

By suspending your benefit, it does not mean that the monthly payments will be given to you later in a lump sum.  It means that you agree not to receive a monthly benefit and instead start gaining the increase based on the delayed retirement credits.  

By suspending, you are able to start adding the delayed retirement credit for each month that you do not receive your retirement benefit.  So if you file and suspend your benefit at age 66, you start accruing 2/3 of 1% for each month that goes by.  This will be added to your full amount and you can start receiving it anytime between age 66 and age 70. 

Let me clarify one important detail. You do not have to suspend your retirement benefit at age 66 in order for your wife to begin receiving her benefit on your record as a wife.  You can actually receive your retirement benefit at 100% at age 66, and she can start receiving her wife’s benefit. 

If you want to file and suspend your retirement benefit, you can at age 66, and Social Security will still pay the spousal benefit to your wife on your record. 


Do more men or women receive Social Security benefits?


Women represent 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and approximately 68 percent of all beneficiaries age 85 and older.

With longer life expectancies than men, elderly women tend to live more years in retirement and have a greater chance of exhausting other sources of income. This is just one reason that Social Security represents a more important part of retirement income for women.

One way to prepare for retirement is to understand Social Security benefits as far in advance as possible. A recent national campaign was just announced to help with this type of planning.  Social Security, along with the American Savings Education Council, the Consumer Federation of America, the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement, and the U.S. Department of Treasury, launched the “Campaign for a Secure Retirement: Helping Millions of Americans Plan and Save for Retirement

The campaign is a joint educational retirement campaign to encourage retirement planning and saving and to promote the online Social Security Statement, available through my Social Security, as an important retirement planning tool.

Each month, the campaign will target different audiences and focus on different themes, such as women in March. You can stay up to date on the many activities at the informational page.  Current activities are also reported on Facebook.

Oscar Garcia is a Public Affairs Specialist with the Social Security Administration. You can direct your questions to him at: SSA, 411 Richland Hills Drive, San Antonio, Texas, 78245. You can also email him at


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