Can the higher earning spouse receive spousal benefits on the lower earning spouse's record from Social Security?
Yes, assuming that the lower earning spouse qualifies and has filed for benefits. If the higher earner files a standard application, he will not qualify for spousal benefits because his benefit would be higher than his spousal benefit. However, if he files a "restricted application" he can access a spousal benefit while still accumulating delayed retirement credits on his own record.
Example: Millie and Otis are seeking to retire and both are 66 and life expectancy for Millie is much greater than Otis life expectancy. Otis benefits are greater and he would like to increase his base benefit especially to provide for his spouse when he is gone. One option is he could file a "restricted" and collect on Millie under the spousal while Millie collects on her own benefit. By doing this Otis get to increase his base amount by 8% each year until age 70 and all the while collects his 1/2 of Millie benefit under the restricted spousal option. Millie draw all of her benefit and they file later for the large base on his perhaps at age 68,69 or 70? Depends on his Life Expectancy as to when to switch over to his own and yet still maximize it for Millie. Do not expect the Social Security Office to come up with this option for you as it clearly spells out on www.ssa.gov site does not allow financial planning rather to provide you with number crunching and forms to do what you wish to do. We have a special calculator that is free and very useful for those wishing to find out "what is at stake?" It is on the right side of the home page of www.stewardshipmatters.net and getting experienced help can mean getting on the right side of your retirement cash flow.