The other day I came across an article about Social Security and spousal benefits. According to my
not in the least bit scientific poll, 4.5 out of 5 people I asked knew nothing about this spousal benefit (1 person got half the answer correct). Realizing this, I decided to do a little research in hopes to spread the awareness and perhaps help a few people increase their social security benefits.
Spousal benefits apply to current spouses, widowed spouses and ex spouses. Spouses who never worked or have low earnings may get up to half of a retired worker’s full benefit. If you’re eligible for both your own retirement benefits and spousal benefits, Social Security will always pay your own benefits first. If your benefits as a spouse are higher than your own retirement benefit, you’ll get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit.
Even if you have never worked under Social Security, you may be able to receive spousal retirement benefits if you are at least 62 years of age and your spouse is receiving retirement or disability benefits. If your spouse has not yet retired, there is still a way for you to collect spousal benefits. Your spouse can file for social security and then immediately suspend their benefits. This will allow you to collect based on your spouse’s earning record while allowing your spouse’s benefit continue to grow. The Social Security website’s page Retirement Planner: Suspending Retirement Benefit Payments will explain this in further detail.
If you have reached your full retirement age, and are eligible for a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s benefit and your own retirement benefit, you may choose to get only spouse’s benefits. Then, you can continue accruing delayed retirement credits on your own Social Security record. You can then file for your retirement benefits later and receive a higher monthly benefit based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.
In order to apply for the spousal retirement benefit you need to call Social Security’s toll-free number 800-772-1213. After surviving the usual automated information, wait for the same automated voice to ask you why you are calling. Reply by stating that you would like an appointment at your local office to file for spousal benefits. You should eventually receive a call back from your local representative when you can either schedule an appointment or if you are lucky, take care of it over the phone.
A Retirement Benefits brochure is available for download at the Social Security website. This brochure has all retirement information you might need.