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Spouse’s Social Security Benefits

What Does It Take To Qualify For Social Security Spousal Benefits

Wondering about Social Security Spousal Benefits?

Unlike most rules related to Social Security, the rules for the spousal benefit entitlement are pretty straightforward and easy to understand.

If youve been married to your current spouse for at least one year, youre eligible for a spousal benefit under their work record.

Pretty simple, right?

You may also qualify for the spousal benefit If youre divorced but the marriage lasted for at least 10 years and youre not currently married.

Other Things You Need To Know

There are limits on how much survivors may earn while they receive benefits.

Benefits for a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse may be affected by several additional factors:

  • If you remarry before age 60 , you cannot receive benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married.
  • If you remarry after age 60 , you will continue to qualify for benefits on your deceased spouse’s Social Security record.
  • However, if your current spouse is a Social Security beneficiary, you may want to apply for spouse’s benefits on their record. If that amount is more than your widow’s or widower’s benefit, you will receive a combination of benefits that equals the higher amount.

  • If you receive benefits as a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as early as age 62. This assumes you are eligible for retirement benefits and your retirement rate is higher than your rate as a widow, widower, or surviving divorced spouse.
  • In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a reduced rate and allow the other benefit amount to increase.
  • If you will also receive a pension based on work not covered by Social Security, such as government or foreign work, your Social Security benefits as a survivor may be affected.

Your Monthly Social Security Benefits Increase The Longer You Wait To Claim

While you can collect Social Security benefits as soon as you turn 62, taking benefits before your full retirement age will spell a permanent reduction in your payments of as much as 25% to 30%, depending on what your full retirement age is.

If you wait until you hit full retirement age to claim Social Security benefits, youll receive 100% of your earned benefits. But you can do even better by waiting to claim your Social Security benefits at age 70 your monthly Social Security benefit will grow by 8% a year until then. Any cost-of-living adjustments will be included, too, so you dont forgo those by waiting. Think of that time as bonus earning years and remember that youd be hard pressed to find those sorts of gains for zero risk during that period anywhere else.

Waiting to claim your Social Security benefits can help your heirs as well. By waiting to take her benefit, a high-earning wife, for example, can ensure that her low-earning husband will receive a much higher survivor benefit in the event she dies before him. That extra income of up to 32% could make a big difference.

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How Do You Become Eligible For Social Security Benefits

To be eligible for Social Security benefits in retirement, you must earn at least 40 “credits” throughout your career. You can earn up to four credits each year, so it takes 10 years of work to qualify for Social Security.

In 2022, you must earn $1,510 to get one Social Security work credit and $6,040 to get the maximum four credits for the year. And yes, that means that it is possible to have money withheld for Social Security and never get it back. The minimum is the minimum.

Strategy For Widowed Spouses

The 2020 Guide to Social Security Spousal Benefits

Widows and widowers may receive full benefits at their full retirement age or reduced benefits as early as age 60, as explained in the sections above. Remarrying after age 60 will not affect your eligibility for survivors benefits. However, it may be more convenient for you to forego your widow or widower spousal benefits depending on your circumstances.

If your current spouse is also eligible for Social Security benefits and earns more than your former spouse, you may wish to apply for spousal benefits based on your new spouses record instead.

If you are collecting a survivor benefit, but also qualify for a benefit on your own, you may wish to collect a survivor benefit in the early years of retirement and leave your own Social Security benefits to accrue delayed retirement credits. Then, you can switch to your own retirement benefit as late as age 70.

Also Check: Social Security Disability Benefits Pay Chart 2022

The Two Exceptions To Know Around The 1 Year Marriage Requirement

Normally, you must be married for at least 12 continuous months to meet the spousal benefit duration-of-marriage requirement. However, there are two exceptions to this rule.

Exception 1

If you marry someone who is the natural mother or father of your child, the one year requirement is waived.

Be the natural mother or father of the workers biological son or daughter i.e., this requirement is met if a live child was born to the number-holder and claimant although the child need not be alive.

Exception 2

The 1-year requirement is also waived if you were entitled to Social Security benefits on someone elses work record in the month before you were married.

An example of these benefits would be spousal benefits, survivor benefits or parents benefits.

For example, lets assume you will be eligible for a spousal benefit from your ex-husband Joe. If you remarry, you wouldnt have to wait the full 12 months to get a spousal benefit from your new spouse. Instead, youd be immediately eligible.

This topic is closely related to the Social Security Survivor Benefit. Ive written an in-depth but easy-to-understand article titled Social Security Survivor Benefits: The Complete Guide to Who Gets What and How to Calculate It if you want to learn more.

Social Security Spousal Benefits Explained

  • Social Security spousal benefits can pay an eligible spouse 50% of the partners benefit if it is higher than his or her own benefit. Claims can begin at age 62 but may be worth more at full retirement age. Read our Social Security review to learn more.

Social security is complicated for individual filers, and being married can make it even more complicated. Thats because Social Security includes benefits for the spouse as well as the individual.

When an individual files for retirement benefits, that persons spouse may be eligible for a benefit based on the worker’s earnings according to the Social Security Administration.

In this Social Security review, we outline the rules for spousal benefits.

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Can You Switch From Your Social Security Benefit To A Spousal Benefit

Yes. If you begin collecting your own Social Security benefits at age 62 but your spouse keeps working for another few years, you are eligible to your spouses benefit after they retire if it is higher than your own. Thus, your spouse will get the maximum amount and you can file for 50% of the amount your spouse would receive at full retirement age.

How Much Do Widowed Spouses Receive

When Can My Spouse Collect Social Security Benefits?

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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Changes To Social Security Law

Some changes to the law in recent years have affected how you can collect spousal benefits. If you were born on or before Jan. 1, 1954, you may still be eligible to use a benefits-claiming strategy known as a “restricted application” to increase your benefits.

Younger recipients won’t be able to use this strategy, which was ended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015.

When Did Wayne Gretzky Retire Age

Wayne Gretzky, the greatest hockey player of all time, retired at age 38, right before the conclusion of the 1998-99 NHL season. Having led the league in assists two of the past three seasons and having led the Rangers in scoring for the third straight season, he certainly retired when he was on top.

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You Can Claim Social Security Benefits Earned By Your Ex

The end of a marriage doesnt spell the end of being able to get get a Social Security benefit based on your former spouses earnings. You can still receive a benefit based on his or her record instead of a benefit based on your own work record, so long as you were married at least 10 years, you are 62 or older, and you are currently unmarried. And guess what: If you’ve made multiple trips to the altar, you can pick which spouse’s benefits you want to claim, based on what’s most beneficial to you.

Like a regular spousal benefit, you can get up to 50% of an ex-spouses benefit less if you claim before full retirement age. And the beauty of it is that your ex never needs to know because you apply for the benefit directly through the Social Security Administration. Taking a benefit on your ex-spouses record has no effect on his or her benefit or the benefit of your exs new spouse. And unlike a regular spousal benefit, if your ex qualifies for benefits but has yet to apply, you can still start collecting Social Security based on the exs record, though you must have been divorced for at least two years.

Note: Ex-spouses can also take a survivor benefit if their ex died after the divorce, and, like any survivor benefit, it will be worth up to 100% of what the ex-spouse received. If you remarry after age 60, you are still eligible for the survivor benefit.

The Bottom Line On Spousal Benefits

Social Security spousal benefits: 5 shocking facts you should know ...

Spousal benefits can boost your Social Security if your spouse earns significantly more than you. However, if youre employed for most of your working years, you may still qualify for a bigger benefit on your own. If youre wondering how much youd qualify for on your own record or your spouses, you can create a my Social Security account to estimate your benefits and kickstart your retirement planning.

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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.

Collecting Social Security Spousal Benefits

Spousal benefits are Social Security benefits that are based on your spouses work record instead of your own. In some circumstances, youre eligible for spousal benefits even if youve divorced.

Your Social Security retirement benefit is typically based on your 35 highest-earning years of work. But, if your spouse earned significantly more or your work history is limited, you may get more money from spousal benefits. Read on to learn when you qualify for spousal benefits and how Social Security calculates your payments.

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You Can Get Up To 50% Of Your Spouses Full Benefit

The maximum spousal benefit is 50% of your spouses primary insurance amount. Thats the benefit theyll qualify for once theyre full retirement age, which is 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.

If you take benefits before your own retirement age, youll get less than 50%. For example, if you start your benefits at 62 the earliest age you can take Social Security youd receive just 32.5% of their primary amount.

Let Us Help With Spousal Social Security Disability Benefits

If Your Spouse Dies, Can You Collect Their Social Security Benefits?

If you or your spouse need assistance applying for Social Security benefits, at the number at the top of the page! We can guide you on how to apply for benefits and answer any questions you may have about Spousal Social Security benefits. Every case is different with unique circumstances and family dynamics, so contact us today to discuss your options!

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‘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.

What Happens If One Spouse Dies

If your spouse passes away, you can collect a survivors benefit as early as age 60. You will be able to get the maximum benefit, or the full amount of your spouse’s monthly Social Security payment if youve reached FRA.

Before that, its reduced by 71.5%-99%. The amount it’s reduced by depends on how many years over 60 you are.

If you are the surviving spouse, you can restrict your application to file for either your own benefit or the survivor benefit. Later, you can switch to the other amount.

You might do this if your own monthly payment at age 70 would be larger than your spouse’s payment. You could claim the spousal benefit for several years, and then at age 70 switch to your own benefit.

If you are divorced and your ex-spouse dies, you might be able to get the same benefits as any current spouse. This is true if your marriage lasted at least 10 years or you are caring for a qualifying child.

Once you and your spouse have started getting Social Security benefits, the surviving spouse will have to choose one benefit. You can take either your spouse’s monthly payment or your own. You cannot get both.

If you live in the same household when your spouse passes away, you will also be able to get a one-time lump-sum payment of $255.

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Social Security: How Does The Cola Increase Get Applied To Spousal Benefits

The much higher Social Security payments that go into effect in 2023 dont only benefit retired workers they also benefit spouses of those workers.

The Social Security Administration announced last week that the 2023 cost-of-living adjustment will be 8.7% the biggest bump in 41 years. The average benefit for retired workers will rise by more than $140 a month next year vs. this year, but the average benefit for spouses will increase even more than that. The COLA increase for everyone, including spouses, will be applied according to the same formula.

Check Out: 6 Things You Must Do When Planning for Retirement

In case you need a quick primer on spousal benefits, the SSA says that when a worker files for retirement benefits, the workers spouse might be eligible for a benefit based on the workers earnings. To get the benefits, the spouse must be at least 62 years old or have a qualifying child in their care. A qualifying child is one who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits.

The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the workers primary insurance amount, depending on the spouses age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before full retirement age, the spouse will receive a reduced benefit. However, if a spouse is caring for a qualifying child, the spousal benefit is not reduced. Waiting longer to receive benefits will typically boost your payment amount.

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