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Can a older spouse with 39 SS quarters file on their spouses record of over 40 SS quarters, IF that spouse wants to postpone starting their own benefits?

Spouse F may file for a spousal benefit of their spouse M, which would be 50% of spouse M's PIA (the benefit spouse M would received if they started SS retirement benefits in the month of their Full Retirement Age or FRA) when Spouse F attains their own FRA. If spouse F begins the spousal benefit prior to their FRA, that spousal benefit will be reduced for each month they begin prior to their FRA, down to age 62. It does not matter whether spouse F has worked enough quarters to have their own benefit. If still married, the spouse benefit cannot begin until spouse M begins their benefit. If divorced and married at least 10 years and not remarried, former spouse M would not be required to have begun their own benefit first.

SS will use both benefits when spouse F begins either her own benefit or a spousal benefit, thus spouse F is 'deemed' to have used both and cannot suspend one and use the other one at a later date. There were two exceptions to this: 'File and Suspend' which was discontinued April 2016 and the 'Restricted Application' which applies only to those born prior to Jan 2, 1954, which sounds like this would not apply to your situation.

If spouse F begins the spousal benefit prior to having 40 full quarters, although I've not run into this before, I believe that once begun, when spouse F does finally attain 40 'good' quarters (i.e. has earned the minimum required per each quarter), then the spousal benefit will adjust to the greater of the spousal benefit or the worker's own benefit based on the age the spousal benefit began, and then give spouse F the greater of the two.

Because spouse F only has about 10 years, the spousal benefit will be affected by the Government Pension Offset for the spousal benefit. The formula for this reduction in the spousal benefit you'll need to ask the SS counselor during your visit.

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