Social Security Spousal Benefits: Everything You Need to Know

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What You Need To Know About Social Security Spousal Benefits 

Got questions? We’ve got answers. Here are some of the most frequently asked questions that financial advisers get on spousal benefits.

Your love may be priceless but there are some things you just want to know.

HOW MUCH AM I ENTITLED TO IN SPOUSAL BENEFITS?

You can get a maximum of 50% of the amount your spouse would receive in benefits at the time of his or her full retirement age. Not surprisingly, you can’t get half of your spouse’s benefits as well as your own benefits, which means you’ll only want to take spousal benefits if yours are less than half of your spouse’s benefit.

Of course, you don’t look your age but…

HOW CAN I DETERMINE MY FULL RETIREMENT AGE?

Use the retirement age calculator at Kiplinger.com or the calculator that’s available on the Social Security Administration website. Just plug in your birthdate and go from there.

Time flies but you don’t want to just wing it when it comes to your benefits.

WHEN SHOULD I TAKE SOCIAL SECURITY SPOUSAL BENEFITS?

Just as with other Social Security retirement benefits, you can start collecting spousal benefits at age 62 (you may be able to take benefits earlier if you’re caring for dependent children). If you choose to start taking benefits at 62, you’ll receive them at a permanently reduced rate based on the number of months up to your full retirement age. Note that if you postpone taking spousal benefits until your full retirement age you can receive 50% of the amount your spouse would receive at full retirement age even if they took benefits early at a reduced rate. And unfortunately in this case, slow and steady doesn’t win the race:  Waiting past your full retirement age doesn’t net you more in spousal benefits.

Until do death do us part, but…

WHAT HAPPENS TO OUR BENEFITS WHEN ONE OF US DIES?

Surviving spouses can receive 100% of a deceased spouse’s benefits when they reach full retirement age, or reduced benefits as early as age 60. If you had been taking the 50% spousal benefit, that benefit plan would stop and you would start receiving survivor’s benefits. Remember that if you claim benefits (including survivor’s benefits) before full retirement age those benefits will be reduced and could be subject to the earnings test. In addition, your benefits could be reduced by the Government Pension Offset (GPO) if you receive a retirement or disability pension from a federal, state, or local government based on employment in which you didn’t pay Social Security taxes.

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Sandra Murphy

Sandra Murphy

Holds a master's degree in professional writing and has more than 15 years of experience writing for national and international entities.

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