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.

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1,712 thoughts on “Understanding Spouse’s Benefits

    • Hi Kristy, thanks for using our blog. The amount of your widows benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of the person who died, when the deceased worker started receiving their benefits, your age at the time of your spouse’s death, and the amount of your own retirement benefit. We compare your own benefit with your potential survivor benefit. If your survivor benefit would be higher than your own current retirement benefit at the time of your spouse’s passing, you would be eligible for survivor benefits.

      Typically, a widow or widower at full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s amount, a widow or widower under full retirement age receives about 71 to 99 percent of the worker’s benefit amount, and a widow or widower with a child younger than age 16 receives 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount. For more information about how much your benefit would be, visit our Survivors Planner.

      You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 for a widow’s benefit estimate or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  1. My spouse died 5 days short of us being married 10 years Does that make me unable to receive to receive any benefits from is social security

  2. My wife is receiving social security benefits since May,2020 at age 66. I am 64 years old and still working, can I file spousal benefit now and what happen if I I retire in 2 years? Will my own benefit be affected?

    • Hi Ronaldo, 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.

      However, if you turn 62 before January 2, 2016, deemed filing rules will not apply if you wait to file at your full retirement age or later. This means that you may file for either your spouse’s benefit or your retirement benefit without being required or “deemed” to file for the other. Check out our Frequently Asked Questions web page for additional details.

  3. If I apply for Social Security will SSA automatically know to give me spousal benefits? I don’t see anything on the application that would indicate they would.

  4. If neither spouse draws ‘spousal benefit’, one drawing their own basic social security benefit and earning part-time wages, the other not yet eligible or not drawing SSA and working, do the wages of the noneligible worker count in determining taxability of the SSA eligible spouses benefit ?

  5. I was married for over 20 years and am divorced, never remarried. I am 66 and plan to retire soon. Can I claim my ex-husbands ss? His income was more than mine.

  6. I want to retire in June 2021 at the age of 63. I want to collect my late husband’s social security from June 2021 until I reach my full retirement age or later. My husband died 12 years ago at 50. I want to make sure my social security will continue to grow . I also want to find out how much my husband’s social security will be in June 2021. Since the ssa offices are still closed, how can I find out this information.

  7. My spouse has been receiving the spousal benefit, one-half of my benefit. He will be age 70 in December 2020 and wants to now apply for his full benefit. A letter arrived from the SSA and it states he can apply online for his full benefit, call or go to local office. He logged in to his mysocialsecurity account and there are no links anywhere to complete this request. How can he apply online for his full retirement benefit? Thank you.

    • Hi Margaret, thank you for your question. The amount of your widows benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of the person who died, when the deceased worker started receiving their benefits, your age at the time of your spouse’s death, and the amount of your own retirement benefit. We compare your own benefit with your potential survivor benefit. If your survivor benefit would be higher than your own current retirement benefit at the time of your spouse’s passing, you would be eligible for survivor benefits.

      To inquire about potential widow’s benefits, call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

  8. :Husband recently died. Do I get his Social Security benefits or continue to get my own. He did not get Oct. benefit. I got my Oct. benefit. His benefit is higher than mine. Do I need to do anything?

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Antoinette. The amount of your widows benefit is based on several factors, including: the earnings of the person who died, when the deceased worker started receiving their benefits, your age at the time of your spouse’s death, and the amount of your own retirement benefit. We compare your own benefit with your potential survivor benefit. If your survivor benefit would be higher than your own current retirement benefit at the time of your spouse’s passing, you would be eligible for survivor benefits.

      Typically, a widow or widower at full (survivors) retirement age or older generally receives 100% of the deceased worker’s amount, a widow or widower under full retirement age receives about 71 to 99 percent of the worker’s benefit amount, and a widow or widower with a child younger than age 16 receives 75 percent of the worker’s benefit amount. For more information about how much your benefit would be, visit our Survivors Planner.

      To apply for widow’s benefits, please call us at 1-800-772-1213 for assistance or you can contact your local Social Security office. Please look for the general inquiry telephone number at the Social Security Office Locator. The number may appear under Show Additional Office Information. Please be aware that our call wait times are longer than normal. We hope this information helps.

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