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Social Security Spousal Benefits Eligibility

How To Calculate Your Own Social Security Spousal Benefits

Wondering about Social Security Spousal Benefits?

The spousal benefit calculation is straightforward if you dont have a benefit of your own. Remember, in that case, its between 32.5% and 50% of the higher-earning spouses full retirement age benefit, depending on your filing age.

However, it can seem a little more complicated if you have Social Security benefits from your work history.

And to keep things interesting, the Social Security Administration decided that a different calculation method should be used to determine how much each benefit should increase/decrease based on your filing age.

Fun, right?

As complicated as Social Security benefits can seem, there is a way to correctly calculate how much your spousal benefit will be if you qualify to receive it.

Check out this section of my video that goes over this calculation step-by-step. VIDEO: How To Calculate Spousal Benefits The RIGHT Way

If you understand how they break down the individual benefits, its not hard to use the table above to quickly figure out what your approximate benefit will be. Heres an example.

Joe and Julie each have a Social Security benefit from work they individually performed. Julies benefit at her full retirement age is $800 per month. Joes benefit at his full retirement age is $2,000.

Assuming they are both full retirement age when they file, Joe will be entitled to a benefit of $2,000 and Julie will be entitled to the greater of her own benefit or half of Joes benefit.

Sounds simple, right?

When A Family Member Dies

We should be notified as soon as possible when a person dies. However, you cannot report a death or apply for survivors benefits online.

If you need to report a death or apply for benefits, call 1-800-772-1213 . You can speak to one of our representatives between 8:00 am 7:00 pm. Monday through Friday. You can also contact your local Social Security office.

The Size Of The Workers Retirement Benefits

How much the retired worker qualifies for in Social Security retirement benefits at full retirement age sets the baseline for calculating spousal benefits.

Current and former spouses could receive up to 50% of their partners primary insurance amount, the amount a person would receive if they applied for Social Security at full retirement age

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Retirement Age For Those Born After 1937

Year Born
1960 or later 67 years

The system does provide for early retirement at age 62, but also offers higher benefits for people who wait to make their claims after reaching full retirement age. For more information, see Nolo’s article Social Security Benefits: Retirement, Disability, Dependents, and Survivors.

Calculating Social Security Spousal Benefits

How to Maximize Social Security Spousal Benefits  Rules &  Eligibility ...

Spousal benefits are based on your spouses primary insurance amount, which is the amount theyre eligible for at full retirement age . Depending on how old you are when you start Social Security, you can receive 32.5% to 50% of your spouses benefit.

If you wait until your full retirement age which is 67 if you were born in 1960 or later youll qualify for the 50% maximum. But if you claim as soon as youre eligible at 62, youd only receive 32.5% of their full benefit.

When you take your own retirement benefits, you can earn 8% delayed retirement credits for each year you wait past your full retirement age until you reach your benefit cap at age 70. However, you cant earn delayed retirement credits when youre taking spousal benefits. Youll receive your maximum benefit once you reach full retirement age.

You also wont earn extra if your spouse waits past their full retirement age. The rules are different for surviving spouses, as well discuss shortly.

If you take spousal benefits, you wont affect the benefits your husband or wife receives. Their benefit is based solely on their primary insurance amount and when they claim.

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Green Card Benefits For Lawful Permanent Residents

When you come to the United States on an immigrant visa, you are granted green card benefits that allow you to both live and work in the U.S. Coming to the United States and being granted a green card comes with many advantages. In this article, youll learn about all the green card benefits that are granted to green cardholders.

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Spousal Benefits For Widows And Widowers

A widow or widower can receive up to 100% of a spouse’s benefit amount. That’s if the survivor has reached full retirement age at the time of the application.

The payment is reduced to somewhere between 71% and 99% of the deceased’s entitlement if the widowed person is at least 60 but under full retirement age.

Disabled people can apply as early as age 50. The agency has a streamlined application process to avoid delays in the first payment.

You may be eligible for benefits even if your spouse died long before reaching retirement age. Every employee racks up annual Social Security “credits” for working. If your spouse earned credits for at least 10 years, a spousal benefit has been earned.

It’s important to note that it pays to hold off until you reach your “full” retirement age to maximize the amount you will receive.

Also, if you are receiving spousal benefits and your spouse dies, you need to notify Social Security. Your spousal benefit of 50% of your partner’s benefit will convert to a survivor benefit of 100%.

And do it promptly. It’s not usually retroactive.

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The Big Question: When Should I Apply For Retirement Benefits

The single biggest decision youll make when it comes to Social Security retirement benefits is when to apply.

Every persons situation is unique and so theres no single right answer. In general terms and based on life expectancies, Social Security retirement benefits are calculated to give you approximately the same total amount of benefits over your lifetime. If you decide to draw benefits earlier in your life, your average monthly amount will be less than if you delay and draw benefits later in life.

The amount you receive can vary widely. For example, if you were born in 1953 or 1954 and you were entitled to draw a $1,000 benefit at your full retirement age of 66, that amount would be $750 if you decided to draw benefits starting at age 62. But in that same scenario, if you delayed benefits until age 70, the amount would jump to $1,350.

There is no exact science when deciding when to apply, but here are some things to consider as you decide whats best for you.

Direct Deposit: Its The Law

If You Receive Social Security Disability, Can Your Spouse Get Benefits?

Effective March 2013, a new law went into effect requiring that all Social Security benefits be paid electronically. This means benefits due to you are directly deposited into a bank account of your choosing. The change means a quicker delivery of benefits as well as being safer and more convenient for customers.

The U.S. Treasury administers the Direct Deposit program and can answer questions for customers who call their helpline at 1-800-333-1795. For information and to sign up for the electronic delivery of funds, go to the Go Direct website at

The Treasury will also grant waivers in rare instances. To request a waiver or for more information, call 1-855-290-1545.

How to contact the Social Security Administration

Website: www.socialsecurity.gov

Phone: 1-800-772-1213

TTY number: 1-800-325-0778

E-mail: Fill out a contact form located at

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Social Security Spousal Benefits Requirements

Based on actuarial studies, after a married couple reaches 65 years old, a majority of the time, one spouse will outlive the other by as much as 10 years. So the decision on who should file for benefits and when that should take place can have a major long-term impact on the income of a surviving spouse.

Spouses who never worked or have had low earnings throughout the course of their life are entitled to receive up to half of their spouses full retirement benefit. Depending on your personal situation, you may receive your own benefit or a blended amount of both you and your spouses benefit. Either way, you will receive a combination of benefits that gives you the highest possible amount.

One strategy often employed is for a spouse to take their spouses retirement benefit and delay taking their own benefit. By doing so, you can continue to accrue delayed retirement benefits which will result in a larger benefit amount when you file for your own retirement benefit.

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.

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Calculation Of Social Security Benefits For Spouses

If you are going to apply for spousal benefits, you might be wondering how much you will get each month. Thecalculation of the spousal benefit is performed using the primary insurance amount of the primary beneficiary. If you wait until full retirement age to start your benefit , you will receive 50% of your spouses benefit amount. So, if your spouse receives $2,000 per month, you can expect to receive $1,000 per month in spousal benefits. However, you can start your spousal benefit as early as age 62.

Starting your benefit early will decrease the amount you receive. You will see a deduction for each month that you start early. Starting your benefits at age 62 can lower them to 32.5% of the primary beneficiarys benefit amount. In the scenario above, starting your benefits at age 62 could lower your $1,000 spousal payment to around $640 per month. Remember that once you start your benefit, you will continue to receive this amount for life . So, starting benefits early could cost you thousands of dollars over the course of your lifetime.

Social Security Phone Number


You can contact Social Security by phone by calling their toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213. If you are deaf or hard of hearing, their TTY phone number is 1-800-325-0778. You can use their automated telephone services to obtain recorded information and to conduct some business 24 hours a day. You can speak with a Social Security representative if you call between 7am and 7pm Monday through Friday. You can also reach their TTY number if you call between 7am and 7pm Monday through Friday. For instructions on their Automated services click here.

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Get The Answers You Need For Your Expat Taxes

We hope this guide has helped you understand how a foreign spouse can receive Social Security benefits. To learn more about your expat taxesand how you can lower your taxes overseasjust download our free guide: 25 Things You Need to Know About US Expat Taxes.

At Greenback Expat Tax Services, we specialize in helping expats around the world manage their US tax obligations. Just contact us, and well be happy to answer any questions you have.

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Earn Ssa Work Credits In Some Countries

You may not have enough credits from your work in the United States to qualify for retirement benefits. But, you may be able to count your work credits from another country. The SSA has agreements with 24 countries. If you earned credits in one of those countries, they can help you qualify for U.S. benefits.

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Second Change: Voluntary Suspension Of Benefits

Before the change:

  • A worker at full retirement age or older applied for retirement benefits and then voluntarily suspended payment of their retirement benefits.
  • The workers voluntary suspension permitted a spousal benefit to be paid to their spouse while the worker was not collecting retirement benefits.
  • The worker would then restart their retirement benefits later, for example at age 70, with an increase for every month retirement benefits were suspended.

How did the law change?

For requests submitted on or after April 30, 2016:

  • You can still voluntarily suspend benefit payments at your full retirement age to earn higher benefits for delaying.
  • During a voluntary suspension, other benefits payable on your record, such as benefits to your spouse, are also suspended.
  • If you have suspended your benefits, you cannot continue receiving other benefits on another persons record.

There are some exceptions. If you are a divorced spouse, you can continue receiving a divorced spousal benefit even if your ex-spouse voluntarily suspends his or her retirement benefit.

What is the reason for this change? It makes it fair to delay payments for the workers spouse, and dependents if the worker has not retired or is in suspense. Couples can no longer simultaneously receive a benefit and get a bonus for delaying to file.


Eligibility For Social Security Spousal Benefits

Social Security – Spousal benefits

Before applying for benefits, you should be married for at least a full year. In addition, your spouse must have already started to collect benefits and youll need to be at least 62 years old.3

If youve experienced multiple marriages and/or divorces, its up to you to choose whichever spousal benefit is more impactful, given the other requirements have been met. Additionally, if you have employment experience you may be eligible for a personal benefit. In this case, you may receive your own benefit if it is greater than the spousal benefit in question.

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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.

‘file And Suspend’ Has Been Totally Eliminated

You may also hear or read about another Social Security claiming strategy known as file and suspend. Unfortunately, it is no longer applicable, also due to the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. Using this strategy, the higher-earning spouse could file for Social Security at full retirement age , but then “suspend” his or her claim and not take benefits until later, while racking up delayed retirement credits in the meantime.

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How Much Will Your Divorced Spouse Receive

If you have not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits on your record if you have been divorced for at least two continuous years.

If your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

If your ex-spouse was born before January 2, 1954, and has already reached full retirement age, they can choose to receive only the divorced spouses benefit and delay receiving their own retirement benefit until a later date.

If your ex-spouses birthday is January 2, 1954 or later, the option to take only one benefit at full retirement age no longer exists. If your ex-spouse files for one benefit, they will be effectively filing for all retirement or spousal benefits.

Can My Foreign Spouse Claim Social Security Benefits In Any Country

The Elephant in the Room: Social Security

US citizens and their non-US spouses can claim Social Security benefits in almost any country in the world. However, there are some exceptions to this.

First, no one can claim US Social Security benefits while living in Cuba or North Korea. In addition to this, there are a number of countries where it is generally impossible for the US government to send Social Security payments. These include:

However, certain eligible persons may be able to claim Social Security benefits even in these countries. And regardless, if you move away from one of the above countries, you can claim the Social Security payments that were withheld during your stay.

Again, the rules for claiming Social Security benefits can vary quite a bit depending on where you and your spouse live. For more information, we recommend consulting a qualified expat tax professional.

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General Principles For Electing Social Security Benefits

When deciding how to apply for benefits, a couple should consider the following:

  • Avoid the Early Retirement Option if Possible. The decrease in benefit due to early retirement is punitive, so unless the need for income is severe, wait until you reach your normal retirement age before beginning distributions. Of course, if a person is in ill health and is unlikely to survive to their regular retirement age, taking early distributions is financially sound. Just dont forget that taking early benefits also reduces the monthly widow or widower benefits received by the surviving spouse.
  • Delay the Start of Benefits Until Age 70. An 8% deferred guaranteed return is difficult to achieve in todays volatile markets, even if you are willing to take substantial investment risks. While deferred benefits can be a solid financial decision, make sure youre able to replace that missing income from work or other investments.
  • Beneficiaries With Nonworking Spouses Should Always File and Suspend. Deferring spousal benefits for a nonworking spouse rarely makes financial sense. For example, the primary benefit owner who was entitled to $1,000 monthly would eventually receive $1,240 by deferring payment. At the same time, the spousal benefit would increase from $500 to $620. The three years of deferred payments would total $18,000, requiring 12 and a half years just to break even. The spouse should instead begin collecting immediately, using file and suspend.
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