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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1,527 thoughts on “Understanding Spouse’s Benefits

  1. I was told last year when my husband passed away he was getting Social Security and that after I turn 60 I would qualify for his benefits how do I go about this and do I have to quit my job in order to get this

  2. i would like to fill out application online for a claim of death benefits of my spouse who died April 3, 2020. I do have a telephone appt. set up for May 26, 2020 but if i want to do it online the letter said i could fill it out online. not sure where to go to fill out the application on website, http://www.socialsecurity.gov.

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Lorraine. The Lump-Sum Death benefit of $255 (a one-time payment) may be payable upon the death of a person who has worked long enough to be insured under Social Security. Widows benefits are payable as early as age 60 (for a reduced benefit) or a full widowers benefit at full retirement age or older. For more information on survivor benefits, please read How Social Security Can Help You When a Family Member Dies .

      To apply for the lump sum death benefit and survivor benefits, please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) to make an appointment 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.

      You can also check out our Survivors Planner for additional details.

  3. I applied for my husband’s SS monthly benefit after he died 4/17/2020. I had a telephone appointment with an agent on 5/7/2020.” Jason” told me that I would receive $255.00 one time death benefit ( received 5/19/2020) and that starting in May, I would receive $2200.00 per month as my husband’s monthly benefit. ( I was giving up MY monthly SS benefit of $945.00) and would receive $2200.00 every month from now on. Today, I only received $1114.00 instead of $2200.00.
    Was the amount he quoted to me wrong ??

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Nancy. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can 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.

  4. hi, my husband is planning to file for divorce he’s at the age to retire , I have about 8 or 9 years before I can retire we been married for 3 yrs and 2 months now. he’s also will be getting his pension. how could I check to see if he applied for social security and pension and will I be able to claim social security and pension when I become retire. I know I can claim after he claim and I need to be at retirement age to get it. and other info I need to understand it better. I was told I can get pension after 3 yrs, I’m not sure . we don’t have any kids together.

  5. The information I just read does not seem to apply to me, and I would appreciate being advised where to start.

    My ex-husband, Phillip Graham Wiggen. and I, Janice Sharon (White) Wiggen, married in August 1960; we were divorced in May 1973. I am his first ex-wife of a total of three ex-wives and the only one married to him longer than ten years.

    My ex-husband recently died on February 12, 2020; he was living in Missoula, Montana, at the time; I live in the Seattle, Washington, area. He was age 81 when he died and would have turned age 82 on June 20, 2020. I am age 83 and will turn age 84 on September 23, 2020.

    Question: Might I be eligible for some additional Social Security benefits based on his benefits? Should I start my search with Missoula, Montana, SS where he died or here in Seattle where I live and where he lived when he received his SS number. He also lived in Washington state many years.

    When I got ready to collect my own SS in 2000, I was not given accurate information at the SS office where I first tried to get information. Consequently, I made some bad decisions and could really use extra funds, if any, from my ex-husband’s account.

    Your guidance and advice will be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you,

    • Hi Janice, thanks for using our blog. For your security, we do not have access to private information in this venue. We ask that members in our Blog community work with our offices with specific questions. You can 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.

  6. My husband died March 17, 2020. I would like to apply for his SS benefit when I reach 65 and 2 months on September 2020.

    • We are very sorry for your loss, Laulie. You cannot apply for widow’s benefits online. To make an appointment to file for widow’s benefits, call us at 1-800-772-1213 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.

  7. Ex husband wants to retire, using my SSI, I’m not ready to retire for another 7 years. What will this do to my SSI income when I want to retire in 7 yrs. Will he get 1/2 of my ssi income? What will be left for me when I retire.

    • Wow is good to be back with my ex again, thank you Dr Ekpen for the help, I just want to let you know that is reading this post in case you are having issues with your lover and is leading to divorce and you don’t want the divorce, Dr Ekpen is the answer to your problem. Or you are already divorce and you still want him/her contact Dr Ekpen the spell caster now on (ekpentemple @ gmail. com) and you will be glad you did

    • Hi Denise, thank you for using our blog. If you are divorced and your marriage lasted at least 10 years, your former spouse may be able to get benefits based on your record. If you have not applied for retirement benefits, but can qualify for them, your ex-spouse can receive benefits on your record if you have been divorced for at least two continuous years.

      If your ex-spouse is eligible for retirement benefits on their own record, we will pay that amount first. If the benefit on your record is higher, they will get an additional amount on your record so that the combination of benefits equals that higher amount.

      Benefits paid to your ex-spouse will not decrease your retirement benefit.

      Check out our Retirement Planner: Benefits For Your Divorced Spouse for additional details.

  8. I turn 66 in July (my retirement age) and plan on still working. My husband is retired. May I collect half of his social security monthly until I retire.
    Joanne

    • Hi Joanne, thanks for your question. First of all, if you attain your full retirement age in 2020, the earnings limit is $48,600 and we only count earnings before the month you reach full retirement age. Beginning with the month you attain full retirement age, your earnings no longer reduce your benefits, no matter how much you earn.

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

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