Social Security Spousal Benefits: Are you eligible?

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Are you wondering where your income will come from in retirement? You may have a pension, a 401(k), or even an IRA or other personal savings. No matter your situation, however, Social Security is almost certainly going to be a part of your retirement income mix. Nearly 90 percent of all retirees rely on Social Security benefits for a portion of their income.

According to Forbes,

Social Security established spousal benefits in the 1930s to provide retirement income to spouses who had spent most of their working years on domestic labor inside the home.

Eligible Americans can receive up to 50% of their spouses’ retirement benefits at full retirement age, although this benefit is becoming less relevant today since both spouses typically work outside the home. Nevertheless, more than 2 million of the 67 million Americans that currently receive Social Security payments get spousal benefits.”

Social Security is a federal program that provides benefits to eligible individuals who have worked and contributed to the program. 

However, this benefit is not just limited to someone who has worked, but also to their spouse and ex-spouse.  If you are married or have been married for at least 10 years, you might be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits.

Your Social Security benefit amount is based on a few factors. One of the biggest is when you file. You can file for benefits as early as age 62 or as late as age 70. Generally, the longer you wait, the higher your benefit amount will be.

What are Social Security spousal benefits?

The spouse of an eligible worker who has retired, become disabled, or passed away is eligible for Social Security spousal benefits.  These spousal benefits are paid based on the verifiable record of the eligible worker.  The monthly benefit amount you may receive depends on several factors.  Including the age at which you start receiving benefits and your own history of earning.

How do Social Security spousal benefits work?

A spouse of a worker who is eligible for Social Security benefits receives a monthly payment.  This monthly amount is based on a percentage of the eligible worker’s primary insurance amount or PIA. This PIA is the amount that the worker would receive if they filed for Social Security benefits at their full retirement age or FRA.

The spousal benefit can be as much as 50% of the worker’s PIA.  But there are factors that can sometimes affect the amount of the spousal benefit you receive.  Often, if you start receiving spousal benefits before your own FRA, your benefit will be reduced.  On the other hand, you can delay spousal benefits.  If you can delay the spousal benefit until after your FRA, your benefit may be increased.

Who is eligible for Social Security spousal benefits?

To be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, you must meet the following criteria:

You must be married to an eligible worker.

To receive spousal benefits, you must be married to an eligible worker.  This means that your spouse must have worked and paid Social Security taxes.  They must have paid for a certain number of years, depending on the date of birth.  You may not be eligible for spousal benefits if your spouse did not work or did not pay Social Security taxes.

You must be at least 62 years old.

To receive spousal benefits, you must be at least 62 years old. However, if you started receiving spousal benefits before your FRA, your benefit will be reduced.

Your spouse must have filed for Social Security benefits.

To qualify for spousal benefits, your spouse must have filed for Social Security benefits. If your spouse has not filed for benefits, you may not be eligible for spousal benefits.

Your own Social Security benefit must be less than the spousal benefit.

If you are receiving, or qualify for, your own Social Security benefit, the collection amount must be less that the spousal benefit that you are eligible to receive.  When your own benefit is greater than the spousal benefit, you will receive your own benefit amount.

You must be married for at least 1 year.

You must be married to your spouse for at least one year, to receive spousal benefits.  What happens if your spouse dies or becomes disabled during the first year of marriage?  If this happens, you may still be eligible for spousal benefits.

What if you are divorced?

If you are divorced, you may still be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record. To be eligible for divorced spousal benefits, you must meet the following criteria:

  • The ex-spouse must be an eligible worker.
  • Your marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years.
  • At least 62 years old.
  • You must not have remarried.
  • Your own Social Security benefit must be less than the divorced spousal benefit.

How do you apply for Social Security spousal benefits?

To apply for Social Security spousal benefits, you must contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) and provide them with your personal information, including your Social Security number, as well as the personal information of your eligible spouse or ex-spouse. You will also need to provide proof of your marriage and any divorce decrees.

If you are eligible for spousal benefits, the SSA will calculate your benefit amount and send you a notice of their decision. You will be required to provide additional documentation, such as proof of income or work history.


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