Ask Bob: How Does Social Security Calculate Spousal Benefits?

The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the worker's "primary insurance amount," depending on the spouse's age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before "normal (or full) retirement age," the spouse will receive a reduced benefit. However, if a spouse is caring for a qualifying child, the spousal benefit is not reduced.
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Question

Is the spousal benefit that is based on the other spouse's higher earnings and full retirement age (FRA) re-calculated for increases over time due to COLA?

My wife is seven years younger than me and my benefit at full retirement age (FRA) of 66 in 2013 would have increased over the years due to COLA. I deferred benefits until age 70½ and realize my current benefit starting age 70½ will not be the basis for her spousal benefit when she turns 66 next year. My benefit at FRA of 66 in 2013 was $2,533. I anticipate that she will get one-half ($1266.50) unless this figure is adjusted upward due to COLA increases since 2013.

Answer

Yes, all benefits are increased by COLAs every year, says Mike O’Connor of Maximize My Social Security. And, he says, the cumulative increase due to COLAs between 2013 and 2019 is 8.6%, so her spouse’s benefit in 2020 would be more than $1,375 depending on next year’s COLA.

Read https://www.ssa.gov/oact/quickcalc/spouse.html.

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Email your questions about retirement and money to Robert.Powell@Maven.io.

Question

Is the spousal benefit that is based on the other spouse's higher earnings and full retirement age (FRA) re-calculated for increases over time due to COLA?

My wife is seven years younger than me and my benefit at full retirement age (FRA) of 66 in 2013 would have increased over the years due to COLA. I deferred benefits until age 70½ and realize my current benefit starting age 70½ will not be the basis for her spousal benefit when she turns 66 next year. My benefit at FRA of 66 in 2013 was $2,533. I anticipate that she will get one-half ($1266.50) unless this figure is adjusted upward due to COLA increases since 2013.

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