5 Facts You Might Not Know About Social Security

July 19, 2018 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: July 19, 2018

little girl getting a piggy back ride on older womanMost people know at least something about Social Security. For decades, Social Security has been providing valuable information and tools to help you build financial security. Here’s your opportunity to find out a little more, with some lesser-known facts about Social Security.

1. Social Security pays benefits to children.

Social Security pays benefits to unmarried children whose parents are deceased, disabled, or retired. See Benefits for Children for the specific requirements.

2. Social Security can pay benefits to parents.

Most people know that when a worker dies, we can pay benefits to surviving spouses and children. What you may not know is that under certain circumstances, we can pay benefits to a surviving parent. Read our Fact Sheet Parent’s Benefits, for the details.

3. Widows’ and widowers’ payments can continue if remarriage occurs after age 60.

Remarriage ends survivor’s benefits when it occurs before age 60, but benefits can continue for marriages after age 60.

4. If a spouse draws reduced retirement benefits before starting spouse’s benefits (his or her spouse is younger), the spouse will not receive 50 percent of the worker’s benefit amount.

Your full spouse’s benefit could be up to 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement age amount if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for your own retirement benefit and a spouse’s benefit, we always pay your own benefit first. (For example, you are eligible for $400 from your own retirement and $150 as a spouse for a total of $550.) The reduction rates for retirement and spouses benefits are different. If your spouse is younger, you cannot receive benefits unless he or she is receiving benefits (except for divorced spouses). If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, when you add spouse’s benefits later, your own retirement portion remains reduced which causes the total retirement and spouses benefit together to total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more on our website.

5. If your spouse’s retirement benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefits and dies first, your survivor benefit will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received.

If the deceased worker started receiving reduced retirement benefits before their full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefit limit may apply to the surviving spouse. The retirement insurance benefit limit is the maximum survivor benefit you may receive. Generally, the limit is the higher of:

  • The reduced monthly retirement benefit to which the deceased spouse would have been entitled if they had lived, or
  • 82.5 percent of the unreduced deceased spouse’s monthly benefit if they had started receiving benefits at their full retirement age (rather than choosing to receive a reduced retirement benefit early).

Social Security helps secure your financial future by providing the facts you need to make life’s important decisions.

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About the Author

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications

Jim Borland, Acting Deputy Commissioner for Communications


  1. Clarice

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  3. Robert T.

    I am 66 in December 2018.
    I will draw my first Social Security payment in January 2019. How much can I earn before SS benefits are reduced ?

    Thank you

  4. Karen G.

    I started taking SS in the fall of 2013 at 65. My husband had been retired 5-6 years by then. My question is can I switch to his spousal benefits which is higher than mine? Thank you.

  5. Traci S.

    My 1st husband died in 1991. I received survivors benefits for my 2 children until they reached the age of 18. I received spousal benefits until I remarried in 1994. My question is: Can I receive my deceased husbands benefits as well as my own when I reach age 62 even though I remarried? I am divorced from my 2nd husband (the one I married in 1994) and have not remarried. Am I disqualified from receiving any benefits from my 1st husband? If so, can I received benefits from my 2nd husband (I divorced in 2010) when I reach 62? He will be 62 in 2025. I will be 62 in 2026,
    Thank you for any information you can provide me. I am just trying to working things out and find out all the information I can before it is time for me to retire!!
    So, if I am missing something, in where, I can receive any benefits along with my own, please explain any such benefits to me.
    Thank you very much again!!
    Best Wishes,
    Traci Steward

    • Ray F.

      Hello Traci. It is possible for a person to be eligible for benefits from different records at the same time. However, we are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either record – meaning that you will only be allowed to receive one payment.
      If you are the (unmarried/single) widow of a person who worked long enough under Social Security, you can start receiving reduced survivor’s benefits as early as age 60 (50 if disabled). If you are also eligible for retirement benefits on your own record, you may have an additional option. You can apply for retirement or survivors benefits now and switch to the other (higher) benefit at a later date.
      The earliest age you can apply for your own (reduced) retirement benefits is 62.
      Also, you may be eligible to receive benefits on your ex-husband’s record if he is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits. Please visit our Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced, then check out our publication, “What Every Woman Should Know” for more important information.
      We hope this information helps!

  6. Wayne D.

    Please can SSA translate some of this information into layman’s terms

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  8. Deanna R.

    Do I have to take my deceased ex-husband’s Social Security?

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  10. Theresa

    I am not yet retirement age but I am trying to do some planning. I have consistently been fairly high income earning but now, at age 60, am finding that the higher income jobs are not being made available to me. I have accepted a dramatically lower paying job, but am concerned it will adversely impact my future benefit amount. Is there a way to ‘freeze’ my prior income amounts so my benefit will calculate from them rather than this much lower income rate?

    • Ray F.

      Hello Theresa. Generally, when you apply for retirement benefits, we base your benefit payment on your highest 35 years of earnings and your age when you start receiving benefits. our Retirement Estimator gives estimates of monthly Social Security benefits based on your actual Social Security earnings record.
      We have a variety of calculators to help you plan for the future. Which calculator you choose depends on what you want to do.
      Also, you can create a my Social Security account online. With your personal my Social Security account, you can verify your earnings, get your Social Security Statement, and much more.
      See our Retirement Planning page for more information.
      Happy planning!

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