How Do I Apply For Spousal Benefits
You can file for spousal benefits the same way you would earned benefits: on the Social Security Administration website, by phone at 1-800-772-1213, or by visiting your local Social Security field office. Once approved, you will receive monthly payments by check or direct deposit.
When you apply for Social Security spousal benefits, they may ask you to provide the following documents to confirm you are eligible:
- Birth certificate
- Proof of U.S. citizenship. If you were not born in the U.S., you will need to show lawful alien status
- U.S. military discharge papers if you served before 1968
- W-2 forms and/or self-employment tax returns for last year
Applying and ensuring you claim the right benefit at the right time for your personal finances can be confusing. When youre ready to apply, we recommend using a checklist to ensure you take the right steps and have the right documentation.
Claiming Early Or Late
Your spousal benefit is based upon your partner’s “normal” benefit amount. But the amount you receive will depend upon when you begin to claim it.
You can claim spousal benefits as early as age 62, but you won’t receive as much as if you wait until your own full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you choose to claim spousal benefits at 62, you’d receive a benefit that’s equal to 32.5% of your spouse’s full benefit amount.
The amount increases with each year you delay. At your full retirement age you’d be eligible for the maximum, which is 50% of your spouse’s full benefit.
Notably, spousal benefits are not reduced if the spouse is caring for a child who qualifies under the age or disability rules. Spousal benefits can never exceed 50% of the other spouseâs full benefit. So, there is no incentive to file for spousal benefits later than your own full retirement age.
An ex-spouse may be eligible for spousal benefits even if the former spouse hasn’t retired yet.
Spousal Benefits Dont Grow By Deferment
With traditional Social Security benefits, the longer you wait to claim them, the higher your benefit amount will be up to age 70. But thats not the case with spousal benefits. Instead, theres no benefit to waiting beyond full retirement age to claim spousal benefits. Your benefit amount will not grow by waiting to take it beyond this point like it would for your own delayed retirement. So, make sure that once you reach your full retirement age, you begin claiming your spousal benefits as soon as possible.
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Social Security Spousal Benefits
Spousal benefits provide for the spouse who stayed home during a marriage instead of working. By claiming Social Security spousal benefits, you can ensure that your retirement years are not severely limited by a lack of income. For more than 80 years, Social Security retirement benefits have helped the quality of life for millions of American retirees.
A recent Social Security study showed that roughly 2.3 million Americans received at least some part of their Social Security retirement benefits as the spouse of a qualified taxpayer. If youve ever been married, you may qualify for Social Security spousal benefits. These benefits are an important income supplement for many retirees.
How Much Do Widowed Spouses Receive
Social Security survivors benefits are especially important to women , because wives tend to earn less than their husbands, and they also typically outlive their husbands. When a retired worker dies, the surviving spouse receives a benefit equal to the deceased workers full retirement benefit.
Depending on the widows or widowers circumstances, however, this benefit may substantially reduce her monthly household income because only one Social Security benefit is now arriving , not the two benefits that the couple received before the spouses death. Women who had worked and earned their own Social Security benefits, in particular, may find themselves struggling to meet the rising fixed expenses that come with aging.
For more information on Social Security and survivor benefits, please visit the Social Security Administration at ssa.gov/benefits/survivors/.
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How Does Divorce Impact Social Security Payments
Social Security payments aren’t considered to be income that can be split along with other assets, per federal law, and they can’t be negotiated in mediation. Clauses in divorce decrees that state a spouse relinquishes their rights to Social Security on their ex’s record are “worthless and are never enforced” if the marriage lasted at least 10 years, according to the Social Security Administration.
In fact, the agency goes on to say that “the same payment rules apply to divorced wives and widows as to current wives and widows.” However, a divorced spouse must meet certain conditions to qualify for the benefits of a former spouse.
Voluntary Suspension Of Benefits
Another former loophole in the system involved the option to voluntarily suspend benefits, also known as the file and suspend strategy. In this scenario, a worker would apply for their benefits at full retirement age, then voluntarily suspend payments.
This voluntary suspension permitted a spousal benefit to be paid to the workers spouse while the worker was not collecting their own benefits. Down the road, at about age 70, the worker could restart their suspended benefits, which by then would have increased due to delayed retirement credits for each month during the suspension.
As of the passing of the Bipartisan Budget Act, if you suspend your retirement benefits, other benefits payable on your record, such as a spousal benefit, are also suspended. If you have suspended your benefits, you also cannot continue to claim spousal benefits or any other benefits on anyone elses record.
The purpose of this change in Social Security law is to make it fair to delay payments for the workers spouse and dependents if the worker hasnt retired or is in a suspension period. Today, couples can no longer simultaneously receive a benefit and get a bonus for delaying to file for benefits.
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Spousal Social Security Benefit Basics
Spousal Social Security benefits are not available to everyone. So to know if this applies to you, check you and your spouses full retirement age benefit amount. If one of those benefits is less than half of the other, then you will be able to apply for spousal benefits.
For example, if your full retirement age benefit is $1,800 per month and your spouses is anything less than $900, then this applies to you.
And that is because with Social Security, you are entitled to receive the greater amount of either:
- Your Full Retirement Age amount. Again, this is just what you can easily find on your statement.
- Or, half of your spouses full retirement age amount.*
Theres an asterisk here because it is not necessarily that simple, well get into the details later. But if you do everything right you can get a spousal benefit up to 50% of your spouses benefit.
Then there are 2 basic requirements to qualify for spousal benefits:
- You must be at least age 62 and have begun your own benefits to be eligible to receive spousal benefits.
- And, your spouse must be receiving their benefits for you to get spousal benefits from them.
Again, these were the changes that we talked about in the first slide. They have not always been requirements, but these are the rules as of now.
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Exceptions To Deemed Filing
Deemed filing applies to retirement benefits, not survivors benefits. If you are a widow or widower, you may start your survivor benefit independently of your retirement benefit.
Deemed filing also does not apply if you receive spouse’s benefits and are entitled to disability, or if you are receiving spousal benefits because you are caring for the retired workers child.
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Length Of Marriage Is Important
You must be married to your current spouse for at least one year to be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, though. If you marry someone who is the biological parent of your child, the one-year waiting period can be waived. Also, if you were entitled to Social Security benefits based on someone elses work record in the month before you married, the SSA will waive the one-year waiting period.
Situations like this include existing spousal benefits, a survivors benefit, or parents benefits. For example, if you were already eligible for spousal benefits based on the earnings of a former spouse, then remarried, youd immediately be eligible for spousal benefits based on your new spouses earnings, with no one-year waiting period.
Social Security Loopholes Explained
As previously mentioned, Social Security benefits are designed to replace the income lost when a wage earner retires, becomes disabled, or dies. To achieve income adequacy goals for lower- and middle-class workers, Congressional intent was that spousal benefits would supplement retirement income for retired couples with one primary earner not provide a bonus benefit that high-income couples could manipulate to their financial advantage. Unfortunately, the latter scenario ended up happening in several different ways:
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How Are Your Social Security Benefits Calculated
Social Security uses your highest 35 years of earnings, indexed to a national average wage index, to calculate your primary insurance amount If you have fewer than 35 years of earnings, each year with no earnings will be entered as zero. You can increase your Social Security benefit at any time by replacing a zero or low-income year with a higher-income year.
There is a maximum Social Security benefit amount you can receive, though it depends on the age you retire. For someone at full retirement age in 2022, the maximum monthly benefit is $3,345. For someone filing at age 70, the maximum monthly amount is $4,194. And for someone retiring early, at age 62, the maximum monthly benefit is $2,364.
How To Calculate Spousal Social Security Benefits
A spousal benefit is calculated as 50% of the other partners Primary Insurance Amount . There are some scenarios in which your spousal benefits will decrease. These include if you are already receiving retirement benefits of your own or if you apply for spousal aid before your complete retirement age.
One of the main factors involved in determining a secondary beneficiarys Social Security benefits is retirement age. If a spouse waits until their full retirement, they may be eligible for a maximum spousal benefit. Full retirement age varies between 65 and 67 years of age, depending on the persons birth year.
For those born after 1960, the full retirement age is 67. Some spouses still choose to claim their spousal benefits as soon as possible. However, it can significantly reduce the maximum amount that they would otherwise be entitled to. In this case, the amount of spousal benefits is reduced based on the remaining months until full retirement age.
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People Are Also Reading
But a fluke in the language written into some amendments to a Social Security law that passed in the 1990s opened up that loophole and allowed millions of generally well-to-do retirees to game the system and collect dependent spousal benefits between age 66 and 70 before switching to 132 percent of their own. A couple years ago, Congress finally recognized their mistake. But instead of sealing up the loophole immediately, they established the January 2020 closing date.
So again, if you are 66 before then, you might want to consider filing a restricted claim. Filing a what, you may ask. Well, that calls for some more explanation.
Social Security rules have always included a deemed application policy. In other words, when you file for one kind of Social Security benefit, you are deemed to be filing for any and all other benefits you might be due. So that is why you normally cannot file for spousal benefits without filing for your own retirement benefits at the same time.
But what that 1990s loophole in the law did was to allow someone who was 66 or older to ignore that deemed filing rule. It allowed retirees to restrict the scope of their Social Security application to spousal benefits only. In other words, you could file for spousal benefits now and delay taking your own benefits until later. Ive been calling that procedure the file and restrict method.
Benefits For Your Spouse
Benefits are payable to your spouse:
- Age 62 or older, unless your spouse collects a higher Social Security benefit based on their earnings record. The benefit amount for your spouse is permanently reduced by a percentage, based on the number of months up to their full retirement age.
At any age if they are caring for your child under age 16 or who was disabled before age 22, and is entitled to benefits.
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How Can I Switch From My Social Security Benefit To A Spousal Benefit
You can only switch from your benefit to the spousal benefit if your spouse has begun receiving retirement benefits and you are at least 62 years old .You can claim your benefit based on your work history until your spouse files, and then you can switch to the spousal benefit. However, if you’re not at your full retirement age, you’ll get paid a reduced spousal benefit, which can be as low as 32.5% of your spouse’s primary insurance amount.
To monitor your benefits or change them, you can create an account on the Social Security site. It contains a wealth of information, and it allows you to make some changes online, although others require a phone call.
Can My Foreign Spouse Claim Social Security Survivor Benefits
Yes. If you pass away, your foreign spouse can claim Social Security survivor benefits. To be eligible, you and your spouse must have been married for at least nine months.
If your spouse is eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, they can begin claiming those benefits once they reach age 60.
Once your spouse has reached the minimum age, they can start claiming 70% of your Social Security benefit. If they wait until retirement age, they can claim the full payment.
How Much Should You Expect To Get From Spousal Benefits
Spousal benefits are capped at half your spouses benefit at full retirement age. If waits beyond that to claim, the spousal benefit cannot grow further, says Claire Toth, managing principal and senior wealth strategist at New Jersey-based Peapack-Gladstone Bank.
Toth is referring to the strategy of a retiree not claiming benefits until past full retirement age in order to claim a bigger monthly benefit. Social Security will boost your benefit substantially if you delay filing until as late as age 70. Its one way to juice your payout without working more.
However, if you file before full retirement age, your spouse will likely receive a permanently reduced benefit. Benefits may be reduced so that the spouse receives as little as 32.5 percent of the retirees benefit. The spousal benefit is reduced by about seven-tenths of 1 percent for each month before full retirement age, up to 36 months. If you exceed the 36 months, Social Security will dock about four-tenths of 1 percent for further months. The math can be complicated, but Social Security provides a tool to help you calculate your spousal benefit.
The exception to this rule of filing early is if a spouse is caring for a child under age 16 or one who is disabled, in which case the benefit is not reduced. In fact, this spouse could claim the spousal benefit at any age if theyre caring for a child who also receives benefits.
Whats The Difference Between Ssdi & Medicare
SSDI benefits provide you with a monthly financial stipend, while Medicare benefits will help you pay for medical care and equipment. Most people qualify for premium-free Part A Medicare benefits, which covers inpatient care at a hospital, skilled nursing facility care, nursing home care, hospice care and home health care. There are different types of Medicare plans, and we highly recommend reviewing this page from our friends at Your ALS Guide on Medicare details. If you need support as you look through this information, never hesitate to reach out to us.
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Social Security Secrets You Should Know
Social Security benefits may be an integral part of your financial picture in retirement. In fact, 55% of retirees and pre-retirees aged 50 or older say Social Security will be their main source of retirement income, according to a 2018 survey from the Nationwide Retirement Institute. Dealing with social security benefits can be very complex and once you make a decision on applying or taking benefits it can be very difficult to reverse. Thats why you may want to speak with a financial advisor to determine your best course of action and to help you prepare for retirement with a full financial plan.
The Best Time To Claim Social Security Spousal Payments
So, when is the best time to claim spousal benefits? Generally, the best time to claim spousal benefits is upon reaching full retirement age assuming that your spouse is already receiving benefits. Waiting past retirement age will have no effect on spousal benefits. You cannot accrue delayed retirement credits and increase your spousal benefit amount.
If your spouse is not already collecting benefits, then you must wait until they are collecting benefits to start your spousal benefits. In some cases, it might make more sense for your spouse to wait until age 70 to start benefits, even if this means delaying your spousal benefits for a couple of years. If you have any questions about the best way to maximize your Social Security benefits, you should consult an experienced financial planner in your area.
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