Question: How can I calculate when is the optimum time to receive spousal Social Security benefits? My estimated Social Security benefit is $2,664 per month and I will be 67 in August this year. My wife's estimated Social Security benefit is $743 per month and she turned 66 in May. I want to start benefits when she reaches FRA or when it is most optimal. We are both retired and if we both file for Social Security the month she reaches FRA will she receive $1,332 (one-half of my Social Security) for our total Social Security of $3,996 -- or am I missing something?

Answer: In the absence of details, we have to make some assumptions.

If your estimated Social Security benefit of $2,664 is based on your age of 67, then your primary insurance amount (PIA) is a bit less; about $2,467, according to Jim Blankenship, a certified financial planner with Blankenship Financial Planning, a blogger, and author of A Social Security Owner's Manual.

Assuming this to be the case, when your wife reaches FRA, Blankenship says, she would be eligible for a total benefit of one-half of your PIA, or about $1,233.50. "If she were to file early, each month that she files early will result in a reduction to benefits," he says. "The reduction isn't a large amount, but if she filed six months before her FRA, for example, the reduction would be to approximately $1,190, a reduction of $43.50 per month."

If your benefit estimate of $2,664 was calculated for your age 66, then her unreduced spousal benefit would be one-half of that amount, as you mentioned -- or $1,332, says Blankenship.

As for your question about what the optimal claiming strategy might be, Blankenship says "this is impossible to determine because we don't know how long either of you will live."

In today's dollars, he says, it's probably better to start your wife's benefit as soon as possible -- either right away or when you decide to file your own application.

"If she starts her benefit before you start yours, you can be eligible for a spousal benefit equal to 50% of her unreduced benefit, since you were born before 1954 and you're over age 66," says Blankenship.

This would get you, he says, a total benefit of $693 -- your wife's reduced benefit -- plus the spousal benefit of $371.50, or $1,064.50. "You would receive that amount until you file for your benefit -- either at your age 67 or later," says Blankenship. "Once you file, then your wife will get the increase of approximately $490 -- a little less since she'd still be under FRA -- on top of the $693 she's already receiving -- if she starts her benefit right now."

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Question: How can I calculate when is the optimum time to receive spousal Social Security benefits? My estimated Social Security benefit is $2,664 per month and I will be 67 in August this year. My wife's estimated Social Security benefit is $743 per month and she turned 66 in May. I want to start benefits when she reaches FRA or when it is most optimal. We are both retired and if we both file for Social Security the month she reaches FRA will she receive $1,332 (one-half of my Social Security) for our total Social Security of $3,996 -- or am I missing something?

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