While this information is geared toward women, it also applies to men who may claim the spousal benefit based on their wife's (or ex-wife's) earning record.
In order to qualify for Social Security spousal benefits, you must be at least 62 years old and your husband must also be collecting his own benefits. If your husband is of Full Retirement Age and is not yet collecting benefits, he can apply for retirement benefits and then request to have the benefits suspended and receive delayed retirement credits until age 70.
Once he has applied for and suspended his benefits, you would then be able to apply for spousal benefits. Additionally, if you are the higher earner, your husband can apply to collect spousal benefits based on your work record. It is important to note that claiming a spousal benefit does not impact the benefit amount received by the worker whose earning record is being used.
Taking Benefits Early
- At age 65, you would receive 45.8 percent of your spouse's benefit.
- At age 64, you would receive 41.7 percent of your spouse's benefit.
- At age 63, you would receive 37.5 percent of your spouse's benefit.
- At age 62, you would receive 35 percent of your spouse's benefit.
For Divorced Spouses
- You must have been married to your ex-husband for at least 10 years.
- You must be at least 62 years old. However, if your ex-husband is deceased and you are currently unmarried, you may collect benefits as early as age 60 as a surviving divorced spouse. If he is deceased and you are disabled, you can collect benefits as early as age 50.
- Your ex-husband must be eligible for benefits. If he is eligible but is not currently receiving benefits, you can still qualify for spousal benefits if you have been divorced for two or more years.
- You must not be currently married. If you remarried and your second husband is deceased, you can claim benefits from either your first or your second husband as long as each marriage lasted at least 10 years.
For Surviving Spouses
- If your husband passes away, you can collect survivor's benefits as early as age 60. You are eligible to receive his full Social Security benefit amount.
- If your ex-husband is deceased and you remarry before age 60 (or 50 if you are disabled), you cannot receive survivor's benefits unless the latter marriage ends (whether it's through death, divorce, or annulment). If you remarry after age 60, you can continue to receive benefits on your former husband's Social Security record. However, if your current husband is also a Social Security beneficiary and you would receive a larger benefit from his work record than you would from your former husband's record, you should apply for spousal benefits on your current husband's record. You cannot receive both benefits.
- Regardless of your age or marital status, if you are caring for your deceased husband's child or children, you would be eligible to receive benefits for raising them until they are 16 years old. These children can then continue to receive benefits based on your husband's work record until they are 18 or 19, as long as they are unmarried. If a child is still a full-time student (no higher grade than grade 12) at 18, he or she can continue to receive benefits until two months after turning 19 or until graduation, whichever comes first. Children who are disabled can also continue to receive benefits after they turn 18 years old.
Applying for Benefits
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© 2013 Women's Institute for a Secure Retirement. Republished with permission. All rights reserved.