For countless elderly individuals, Social Security serves as a crucial financial support system. Recent data from the Social Security Administration reveals that benefits constitute at least 50% of retirement income for over one-third of men and nearly half of women. Given the significance of these benefits, it is prudent to maximize your Social Security entitlements.
Whether you are married, divorced, or widowed, there are additional monthly funds available that you may qualify for, in addition to your existing retirement benefits. If you are in a marital union with an individual eligible for retirement or disability Social Security, you may be entitled to spousal benefits derived from your partner’s work record.
Eligibility and calculation of Social Security spousal benefits
To be eligible for spousal benefits, two key criteria must be met. Firstly, you must currently be married, and secondly, you must be at least 62 years old to initiate the claims process. The maximum amount you can receive is 50% of what your spouse is entitled to at their full retirement age (FRA). It’s worth noting that if you are also entitled to retirement benefits based on your own work record, you can still claim spousal benefits. However, you will only receive the higher of the two amounts, not both concurrently.
Let’s consider an example to illustrate this scenario. Suppose you are eligible for $800 per month in retirement benefits while your spouse is set to receive $2,000 per month at their FRA. In this case, the maximum spousal benefit you can receive is $1,000 per month, not a combined total of $1,800 per month. On the other hand, if your personal work record entitles you to $1,200 per month, you would not qualify for spousal benefits at all.
Claiming divorce benefits: Requirements and considerations
Divorce benefits share similarities with spousal benefits, but entail additional criteria for qualification.
- Marital status: You cannot be currently married to claim divorce benefits. However, if your ex-spouse has remarried, it does not impact your eligibility.
- Duration of previous marriage: Your previous marriage must have lasted for a minimum of 10 years. Additionally, if you have been divorced for less than two consecutive years, you will need to wait until your ex-spouse files for Social Security before initiating your claim for divorce benefits.
- Minimum age requirement: You must be at least 62 years old to receive the full divorce benefit you are entitled to. To maximize your benefit amount, you’ll need to wait until your full retirement age (FRA) to file.
Similar to spousal benefits, the maximum amount you can receive is 50% of the benefit your ex-spouse is entitled to at their FRA. If you are also eligible for your own retirement benefits, you will receive the higher of the two amounts. Importantly, any benefits you collect will not affect your ex-spouse’s monthly payments, nor will it impact any spousal benefits their current partner may receive.
Survivors benefits: Financial support in times of loss
In the event of your spouse’s passing, you may qualify for survivors benefits, which are primarily designated for widows and widowers. However, these benefits can also extend to divorced spouses, parents, children, and other eligible family members. To be eligible for survivors benefits, you must be at least 60 years old (or 50 years old if you have a disability). If you are responsible for a child under the age of 16 or caring for a disabled child, you may be eligible for survivors benefits regardless of your age.
In many cases, widows and widowers can receive the entire benefit amount that the deceased individual was entitled to as survivors benefits. However, the amount you receive as a divorced spouse or other family member will depend on your relationship to the deceased and the number of individuals claiming benefits based on the deceased’s record.
Whether you are married, divorced, or widowed, it’s essential to explore the full range of benefits available to you through Social Security. By maximizing your eligible benefits, you can enhance your financial security and better prepare for your retirement years.
Is there a maximum of Social Security benefits for married couples?
When it comes to each spouse’s own benefit, both partners can be entitled to retirement payments based on their individual earnings and the age they claimed benefits. The great news is that one payment won’t offset or negatively affect the other, ensuring that both partners can receive the benefits they rightfully deserve.
However, be aware that there is a limit for the total family benefit, capping the maximum amount a household can collect from Social Security based on a single worker’s earnings record, which includes spousal, children’s, and survivor benefits.
This maximum amount typically ranges from 150% to 188% of the worker’s monthly benefit payment at full retirement age. There’s also a maximum retirement benefit, as you should know: to draw the top amount, you must have earned at least the maximum taxable earnings (the amount of income subject to Social Security taxes) for 35 of your working years.
In certain situations, both your spouse and children may be eligible for “auxiliary benefits” of up to 50% of your full retirement benefit. Rest assured, any reductions in their payments are made proportionally to ensure fairness, and your own benefit remains unaffected.