Understanding Social Security Spousal Benefits
Did you know that if you are receiving Social Security retirement benefits, some members of your family may also qualify to receive benefits on your record? Your ex-spouse or spouse may receive a monthly payment of up to one-half of your retirement benefit amount if they qualify. These Social Security payments to family members will not decrease the amount of your own retirement benefit.
Understanding Spousal Benefits
Spousal benefits may be attained on your spouse's Social Security even if you didn't qualify for your own benefits. However, if you did qualify for your own benefits, under certain circumstances you may be able to take spousal benefits or file a restricted claim, which allows your personal benefits to continue to grow.
If your spouse qualifies for spousal benefits on their own record, that amount will be paid first. If the benefit on your record is higher, your spouse will get an additional amount off your record so that their combination of benefits equals that higher amount.
A special case exists for those born before 1954. Suppose your spouse was born before January 2, 1954 and has already reached full retirement age. In that case, they can choose to receive only the spouse’s benefit (restricted claim) and delay receiving their own retirement benefit until a later date. This option allows their Social Security payments to potentially grow beyond 100%.
You will want to keep in mind that filing early will reduce any benefits you may be entitled to - including your spousal benefit. If you or your spouse files for a spousal benefit between age 62 and full retirement age, the amount is permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months remaining to their full retirement age.
If your spouse’s birthday is on or after January 2, 1954, the option to take only one benefit (restricted filing) at full retirement age no longer exists. If your spouse files for one benefit, they'll effectively file for all retirement or spousal benefits at that time, and will not have the option to delay one benefit. This type of filing is known as “deemed filing.”
Divorced Spousal Benefits
If you haven't applied for your own 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. Additionally, if you are divorced, your ex-spouse can receive benefits based on your record (even if you've remarried) if and only if:
- Your marriage lasted ten years or longer
- Your ex-spouse is unmarried
- Your ex-spouse is age 62 or older
- The benefit your ex-spouse is entitled to receive based on their work is less than the benefit they'd receive based on your work
- You're entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits
Questions to Discuss with Your Financial Professional:
1. Am I eligible for spousal benefits?
2. When can I claim spousal benefits?
3. What filing strategies make the most sense for myself AND my spouse?
Do you have questions regarding your eligibility for Social Security benefits? As financial professionals, we’re here to help you navigate this important source of retirement income. Contact us today at 614-300-9501, or request a call back.
Information adapted from SSA.gov.