Understanding Spouse’s Benefits

" "Marriage is a cultural institution that exists all over the world. Having a partner means sharing many things including a home and other property. Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. When you’re planning for your fun and vibrant golden years, here are a few things to remember:

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.  You cannot receive spouse’s benefits unless your spouse is receiving his or her retirement 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.

On the other hand, 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).

Knowing how your finances affect your spouse’s can help both of you avoid future impacts on your incomes. When it comes to information, we have over 80 years of experience. Access a wealth of useful information by visiting our benefits planners.


1,579 thoughts on “Understanding Spouse’s Benefits

  1. I wanted to know if I could draw off my husband income instead of me? We both were born 1958 He died Aug 2013 born Dec 1958 I was born July 1958

  2. I will be at retiring at 66 4 months. I plan to work till then. My husband his 11 yrs my senior and he retired at age 62. Can I receive spousal benefits even though I am still working?

  3. if I divorce and my husband and hes not receiving his ss I know I have to be 2 years divorce before I can receive benefits or do I have to wait another 2 years to apply after hes apply s for his and I ve not worked .

  4. If this section is for questions: We were married 30 years, are now divorced 10 years, I am 76, she is 67, I still work, & I am on social security. Is she eligible for a portion of my social security & if so, may I reduce the amount of alimony I am responsible for paying each month?
    Thank you.

    • Hi Don, thanks for using our blog. If you ex-spouse is receiving her own retirement benefit, we always pay that amount first. If benefits as a divorced spouse are higher than her own retirement benefits, she will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher divorced spouse benefit. Her full retirement amount must be less than half of your full retirement amount in order to be eligible for additional benefits on your record. You will need to talk to the courts regarding alimony.

      See our Retirement Planner: If You’re Divorced for other eligibility requirements and more detailed information.

  5. I will be my full retirement age in January 2021. Can I collect 1/2 of my husband’s SS benefit at that time and let mine to grow until I’m 70?

    • Hi Cynthia, thank you for your question. You may be able to get spouse’s benefits but, under existing law, if you are eligible for benefits both as a retired worker and as a spouse, you must apply for both benefits and you’ll receive the higher of the two benefits. This requirement is called “deemed filing” because when you apply for one benefit you are “deemed” to have also applied for the other.

      Deemed filing rules will not apply to those born before 1/2/1954 if they wait to file at their full retirement age or later. This means that they can file for either their spouse’s benefit or their own retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other.

      See our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits FAQs web page for details.

  6. Why don’t you make clear -SOMEWHERE in your publications, what “Survivor’s Benefits” includes?
    For example, after 2 days of searching, I still cannot find anything that definitively states that, if a 65-year old Surviving Widow married to a newly-deceased Husband (who was, at the time of his death, receiving both a monthly SocSec Pension and Medicare Parts A & B coverage) and now qualifies (based on her Husband’s work record) to receive a SocSec monthly “Pension” payment, is also eligible to receive Medicare Part A, and can pay (from her monthly SocSec Pension) the requisite amount to additionally obtain Medicare Part B.

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