When the topic of spousal benefits comes up, it is often connected to the other spouse’s death. However, as a spouse, you may be entitled to benefits while your better half is still living and receiving their retirement benefits. Even if you have not worked under Social Security yourself, you may be able to obtain benefits if you are at least 62 years old. Even if you are divorced, you may still be able to receive Social Security benefits from your ex-spouse.
Are You Eligible for a Spousal Benefit?
Spousal benefits may be offered to those who are currently married or who were married for 10 years before getting a divorce and have not remarried since. In addition, you must be at least 62 years of age unless you are caring for a child who is under the age of 16 or disabled.
For those currently married, you must wait until your spouse files for their retirement benefits before you apply for spousal benefits. On the other hand, if you are divorced, you may file for spousal benefits prior to your ex-spouse’s retirement, but you both must be over the age of 62.
When to Take Your Benefits
If you were born before January 1, 1954, you have a few options when it comes to taking personal and spousal benefits. If you have reached full retirement age and your spouse is retired and receiving benefits, you have the option to delay receiving your own personal benefits and to only accept your spousal benefits.
This allows you to receive the maximal spousal benefits while your benefits continue to accrue. If you decide to do this, you will need to file a restricted application with the Social Security Agency. This can be advantageous as your own personal Social Security benefits will continue to grow after you reach full retirement age.
On the other hand, the spousal benefit does not accrue after full retirement age. Because of this, you might as well begin receiving spousal benefits as soon as you reach full retirement age, if not sooner. If you were born after January 1, 1954, this choice is no longer available to you. Once you apply for your benefits, both your personal and spousal benefits will be considered at the same time.
What Amount of Benefits Can You Expect?
If you have worked and paid Social Security taxes yourself, when you retire you will qualify for your own retirement benefits. However, if your spouse has retired and is eligible for benefits, you may qualify for spousal benefits as well.
Your spousal benefit cannot exceed one-half of your spouse’s total benefits as calculated based on their full retirement age. In addition, it is important to note that if you are receiving spousal benefits, this amount does not affect your spouse’s benefits.
If your spousal benefits are higher than your personal benefits, you will receive an equal amount to your spousal benefit, with your personal benefits paid out first and spousal benefits covering the remaining amount. Simply put, you will receive the highest amount of benefit you qualify for.
To begin receiving Social Security benefits as a spouse or as an individual, you must be at least 62 years of age. If you are between 62 and full retirement age, which is up to 67 depending on when you were born, the amount of your benefits will be reduced by a percentage based on the number of months left until you reach full retirement age.
Because of this, waiting until you reach full retirement age will maximize your potential benefits. If you begin to receive benefits early, your benefit amount will be reduced forever. For example, receiving benefits at the age of 62 rather than full retirement age could result in you receiving only 70 percent of what you would receive if you waited until you were at full retirement age. It is important to consider the difference in benefit amount when determining when to claim your benefits.