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Question

I am 64 and plan on working until I am 70. My wife is 63 and has not worked for 15 years. Also we have 2 adopted children ages 18 and 8. What are my wife's options to start collecting benifits now?

 

Answer

Did she pay into the SS system while she was working? If she worked for a government agency — federal, state or local — sometimes they are outside the system, and other rules would apply.

 

Social Security retirement benefits are based on a person's earnings record over their working years. A person needs at least 40 credits (10 years of work for most Americans) to qualify for retirement benefits, and the 35 years with your highest earnings count toward your benefit level.

 

If she did pay into the SS sytem while she was working, worked long enough to be vested, and had substantial earnings, she should be able to get her own benefit — probably a small one because of these last 15 years, i.e., not working. It would also be reduced because she is filing earlier than her full retirement age.

 

She should register at the mySocialSecurity website and see her statement.

mySocialSecurity.gov - My Account Registration

 

Don't think she will get anything for the kids since you are still working.

 

Once you retire (70), she may want to switch to her spousal benefit which will be 1/2 of yours — but it is 1/2 of only your full retirement benefit and not the extra you will be getting due to working until 70, IF that is higher than her own benefit. By then the 18-year-old will be out of the dependent picture due to age, but you may get a bonus for a few years on the younger one.

 

She can also go to a local Social Security office and get the figures from them and make a decision — the mySocialSecurity account would be easier, and it will also block anybody else from filing for her benefit fraudently. Keep the info when she sets it up. 

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