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How will my wife's Social Security change when I enroll?

November 7, 2012: 6:30 AM ET

My wife elected to take her Social Security benefit at age 62. Is her benefit adjusted upwards when I start taking my full Social Security benefit at age 66? What happens to her benefit if I pass away prior to electing my social security benefit? And what if I pass away after I have elected my full retirement benefit? — Ray G.

Yes, your wife's benefits can increase when you enroll in Social Security at age 66. But if she takes spousal benefits in addition to her own benefits, the total can't be more than one-half of your full retirement benefits, says Kia Green Anderson, a spokesperson for the Social Security Administration.

Your wife is still eligible for survivors benefits whether you pass away before or after taking Social Security, says Anderson. If you take Social Security before your full retirement age and die, your wife's survivors benefit will likely be reduced. And if she takes survivors benefits before she reaches full retirement age, her benefits also will likely be reduced. One strategy: She could continue receiving her early Social Security benefits until she reaches full retirement, at which point she can then switch to survivors benefits if they are greater than her own benefits.

— Austin Kilham

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