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  • Writer's pictureChris Stein, CFP®

Social Security Spousal Benefits

Social Security Spousal Benefits are an integral element of many Social Security claiming strategies. This blog marks our first foray on the topic and is intended as a basic overview of spousal benefits. Future posts will cover spousal benefits in greater detail, including different claiming strategies for maximizing your Social Security through spousal benefits.

In brief, spousal benefits are intended to compensate a lower paid or non-employed spouse (such as a stay at home parent) through the work and income history of the working spouse. In order to be eligible for spousal benefits a few conditions must be met:

  1. You must be married for at least one year. (The limit is 10-years in the case of divorced spouse benefits).

  2. The working spouse must be eligible for benefit.

  3. The working spouse must have filed for or be receiving benefits (This requirement is waived in the case of divorced spouses).

  4. The non-working spouse must be at least age 62.

One aspect of spousal benefits that often causes confusion is the timing of filing for benefits.  The age when the working spouse files and claims their Social Security Benefits does not affect the non-working spouse’s benefit.  What matters is the age that the non-working Spouse files.  If the non-working spouse waits until their full retirement age — which for most people today is somewhere between age 66 and 67 — they will be entitled to 50% of the working spouse’s Primary Insurance Amount.  It does not matter if the working spouse claims before their Full Retirement Age. Nor does it matter if the working spouse claims at age 70. There are no Delayed Earnings Credits applied to spousal benefits.

Just like a worker applying for their Social Security retirement benefits, a non-working spouse can file for spousal benefits before reaching their FRA but they will receive a reduced benefit.  A non-working spouse who’s FRA is 66 can file as early as 62, but rather than receiving 50% of the working spouse’s PIA, they will receive just 35%.  (Note: if the non-working spouse has a full retirement age of 67 and they file at age 62, they will receive just 32.5% of the working spouse’s PIA)

Spousal benefits can be confusing, but understanding the basics will be helpful when you consider claiming strategies.  For more information, use the play button below to listen to our audio post.

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