Spousal benefits are available for a spouse who may not have worked or does not have enough Social Security credits to qualify for their own Social Security benefits.
The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the worker's "primary insurance amount," depending on the spouse's age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before "normal (or full) retirement age," the spouse will receive a reduced benefit. However, if a spouse is caring for a qualifying child, the spousal benefit is not reduced.
If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then they would get the retirement benefit. Otherwise the Social Security Administration will pay the spousal benefit.
A spouse can only claim spousal benefits AFTER their spouse claims his or her own primary benefits and if they meet certain criteria:
- They must be over the age of 62 -or- are under 62 and caring for a child who is either disabled or under 16
- They have been married for at least one month
The best way to understand the spousal benefit is through an example. If a husband's SS benefit at FRA (Full Retirement Age) is $2000, once he files, his wife could claim a spousal benefit of 1/2 of his ($1,000). If her benefit is more than $1,000, then she would just collect her own benefit since it's more than her spousal benefit.
The spousal benefit is available to divorcees too. If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried) if:
- You are unmarried;
- You are age 62 or older;
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits and the benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse's work.
WalletHub Answers is a free service that helps consumers access financial information. Information on WalletHub Answers is provided “as is” and should not be considered financial, legal or investment advice. WalletHub is not a financial advisor, law firm, “lawyer referral service,” or a substitute for a financial advisor, attorney, or law firm. You may want to hire a professional before making any decision. WalletHub does not endorse any particular contributors and cannot guarantee the quality or reliability of any information posted. The helpfulness of a financial advisor's answer is not indicative of future advisor performance.
WalletHub members have a wealth of knowledge to share, and we encourage everyone to do so while respecting our content guidelines
. Please keep in mind that editorial and user-generated content on this page is not reviewed or otherwise endorsed by any financial institution. In addition, it is not a financial institution’s responsibility to ensure all posts and questions are answered.