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.


1,479 thoughts on “Understanding Spouse’s Benefits

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  2. So, is the half spousal benefit not available anymore to those of us born after Jan. 1, 1954? I wanted to sign up for this, and then, delay filing for my full SS at age 70…I was born in Nov. 1954. Can I still do this? What is the reason for this change in the law? I don’t understand the explanation on your website?

    • Hi Marianne, thanks for using our blog. 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. See our Deemed Filing For Retirement And Spouse’s Benefits FAQs web page for details.

  3. Both ,husband and wife have a full retirement soc.security benefits. If one spouse is deceased- will living person receive full or portion of deceased spouse soc. security benefits?
    Thank you for your attention.

    • Hi Alexandra, thanks for using our blog to ask your question. Your survivor amount would be based on your husband’s earnings and vice versa. The more he paid into Social Security, the higher your benefit will be. If he is already receiving benefits when he passes, survivors benefits are based on that amount. The percentage of that amount that you would receive depends on how old you are when you file as a widow. We are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either record, meaning you don’t get both retirement and widows benefits but the higher of the two.

      Widows benefits are payable as early as age 60 (for a reduced benefit) or a full widowers benefit at full retirement age or older.

      Use our Survivors Planner for more details.

  4. My monthly social security check is $1038.00 and my husband gets
    $2727.00. Is it possible that I could get half of his amount?

    • Hi Sylvia, thank you for your question. We will always pay a person’s own retirement benefit first. If their benefits as a spouse are higher than their own retirement benefits, they will get a combination of benefits equaling the higher spouse benefit. However, keep in mind that a spouse’s benefit cannot exceed one-half of the worker’s full retirement amount (not their reduced benefit amount). So, you will be eligible for additional spouse’s benefits if your own full retirement benefit (not a reduced benefit) is less than half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit (not a reduced benefit).

      You can call us at 1-800-772-1213 to inquire 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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