What about Spousal Social Security Benefits?

If you have never worked or paid Social Security taxes (or not paid them for long enough), you will not be eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits on your own account.
April 22, 2020

While you may not be eligible to get Social Security on your own, you may be eligible to receive social security benefits through your spouse's account, if that spouse is eligible. You can file a claim under their account as early as age 62, provided your spouse has already filed to collect their own benefits. In addition, you’ll be able to apply for Medicare at age 65, as long as your spouse is at least 62. However, as with all Social Security retirement benefits, your age will affect the amount you can collect.

A recent Investopedia article asks “How Does My Spousal Social Security Benefit Work?” The article says that, for many couples, both partners are eligible to collect individual benefits. However, this doesn’t preclude either person from collecting under the other person's account. When you apply for benefits, both accounts are examined to determine which claim will result in a higher benefit amount.

If you apply before you hit full retirement age (FRA), and your own benefit is bigger, you’ll automatically be paid that amount. If your spousal benefit is larger, you’ll get a combination of benefits that total that amount. Either way, your benefit will be reduced by a certain percentage for each month benefits are collected, before you reach full retirement age. The full retirement age is between 66 and 67.

If you choose to claim before FRA, your benefit amount may be reduced if you choose to continue working, based on what you make. Eligibility for government, foreign, or public service pensions may also impact your payments. However, if you’re caring for a child who is age 16 or under and gets Social Security disability benefits, you may collect spousal benefits at any age without reduction.

If you wait until FRA to collect benefits, the maximum amount you can collect as a spouse is 50% of your spouse's benefit amount. You are also entitled to your own benefit—whichever amount is higher.

An important change in Social Security law impacts how you can collect spousal benefits. If you were born on or before January 1, 1954, you may still be eligible to use a benefits-claiming strategy known as a "restricted application" that increases benefits. Younger recipients can’t use this. It was ended by the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. If you reach FRA and are eligible for your own benefits as well as spousal benefits, you may opt to collect benefits under your spouse's account now and defer the collection of your own benefits. To file a restricted application, both you and your spouse must be of full retirement age, and you both must have already filed for Social Security benefits.

Every year of delayed retirement is worth an additional 8% in benefits for those born between 1943 and 1954. This means that a person born in 1947 who retires in 2016 at age 69 will receive an additional 24% over and above what he or she would have received had they started collecting in 2013.

Reference: Investopedia (Feb. 21, 2020) “How Does My Spousal Social Security Benefit Work?”

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