Q&A: Social Security spousal benefits

Dear Liz: In a recent article, you mentioned spousal benefits. If someone started her own Social Security benefit at 62, is there no way of drawing a spousal benefit at a later date?

Answer: When you apply for Social Security now, you’re “deemed” (considered by the Social Security Administration) to be applying for both your own benefit and any available spousal benefit. If a spousal benefit is larger, you’ll get that, and you can’t switch back to your own benefit later.

You may be able to switch from your own benefit to a spousal benefit, however. Let’s say that when you applied at 62, your spouse had not yet applied for his or her own benefit. When he or she does apply, you’ll be automatically switched to a spousal benefit if it’s larger than your own.

Before Congress changed the rules, it was possible for one spouse to “file and suspend” — file and immediately suspend an application for retirement benefits, which was enough to allow a spouse to collect a spousal benefit. Today, a spousal benefit is typically only available if the primary earner has started his or her own retirement benefits.

Related Posts


  1. Donald Lain says

    Hi Liz ,
    Regarding that SS draw early at 62 I guess I still am not 100% sure however is it
    no longer possible to have her start drawing half of mine . I spoke with an agent
    from the SS admin. and she said NO!
    I just want to make sure as my wife draws very little. She really didn’t want to talk to me unless I had an SSA # document to refer to. Thanks Liz. Don