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Spousal Social Security Benefits

Your spouse’s work history and lifetime earnings may qualify them for spousal Social Security benefits. The spouse of a primary beneficiary can receive up to 50% of their husband or wife’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA). However, spousal benefits may be less if either individual starts drawing benefits early.

Is Your Spouse Eligible for Social Security Benefits?

A spouse who wishes to claim spousal benefits must be at least 62 years old. The Social Security Administration (SSA) requires a marriage of at least one year between the primary beneficiary and their spouse. Ex-spouses may still claim spousal benefits, but only if they are single. They also need to have been previously married to the primary beneficiary for a minimum of 10 years.

Claiming Benefits

The spouse cannot claim both their own retirement benefits and spousal benefits. If they have their own benefits, they must be less than they would receive from spousal benefits. The SSA will only allow them to claim the higher of the two payouts. Once the spouse claims one or the other, there is no going back. So, a person cannot draw spousal benefits, then switch to using their own benefits.

When to Claim

Finally, a spouse cannot claim spousal benefits until the primary beneficiary begins using their own benefits. Even if the spouse has reached their full retirement age (FRA). It is also important to remember that spousal benefits are not given automatically. Even when the spouse becomes eligible or the primary beneficiary retires. An eligible spouse must contact the SSA to and put in a claim to start receiving their spousal benefits.

Penalties and Payouts

A qualifying spouse can start receiving spousal benefits any time after they turn 62. Then the primary beneficiary begins using their own benefits. However, there is a penalty for drawing spousal benefits before reaching FRA. If a spouse chooses to start using their spousal benefits at the minimum age of 62, their payout will be less. Their benefits will lower by 8.33% each year for three years, then 5% the fourth year. The fifth year they will have reached their FRA and will receive the full amount.

Spousal Payouts

Full spousal benefits are equal to 50% of the primary beneficiary’s PIA at his or her FRA. If the primary beneficiary begins drawing reduced benefits at 62, it will affect their spouse’s payout. Their spouse will also see a reduction of 30% from their spousal benefits. This penalty is permanent and will continue for life.
Unlike retirement benefits, spousal benefits are not raised by waiting to use them. Spousal benefits max out at 50% of the primary beneficiary’s benefits at FRA. Even if the primary beneficiary waits until 70 to begin drawing benefits, it will not affect their spouse’s benefits.

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