How to apply for social security spousal benefits?

You may be eligible for retirement benefits as a spouse if you are at least 62 years old, and your spouse receives retirement or disability benefits; it does not matter if you have never been enrolled under Social Security.

Planning your retirement can be more favorable for you and the people who depend on you. Also, you can receive spousal benefits regardless of the age if you are caring for your spouse’s child (who is under 16 years or is disabled).

If you want to know more about how to apply for Social Security spousal benefits, keep reading.

Previous considerations

As a spouse, you can receive benefits from your work history, or collect a “spousal benefit” that could represent up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit.

If you are eligible for both of them, you will be assigned whichever is higher. If you have never worked, you may still collect Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s employment history.

In case of divorce, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record. To learn more about the requirements, you can click here: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html.

General requirements

You can be eligible for spousal benefits if: 

  • Your spouse has already received retirement or disability benefits.
  • You have been married for at least one year to a worker who receives benefits, or if you are the mother or father of his/her biological child.
  • You are at least 62 years of age, or you are under 62 but in charge of the worker’s child (who is under 16 or disabled).

Other terms and conditions may apply.

You will receive the maximum amount of –50% of your spouse’s benefits– if you reach your full retirement age.

For extra information, we recommend this article: Social Security disability • How to apply and Conditions.

Should I get the benefits before having full retirement age?

The short answer is: probably not. If you collect Social Security benefits, either yours or your spouse’s, before full retirement age, the benefit will reduce permanently; you would receive only 35%, instead of the maximum 50%.

For example: If your spouse collects $ 1,000 in benefits, and you start getting them at:

  • 66 years (your full retirement age), you will receive $ 500 per month (50%).
  • 62 years (before full retirement age), you will receive $ 350 per month (35%).

Although difficulties may force you to collect spousal benefits sooner, think carefully about choosing this path. Keep in mind that an amount that seems appropriate when you just retire may not be the same years later, especially if your medical needs change and some sources of retirement income are depleted.

How can I apply for the program?

You can apply through these options:

  • By phone: Call 1-800-772-1213. For people with hearing problems, call the exclusive TTY number (1-800-325-0778).
  • In-person: Visit your local Social Security office (please call first to make an appointment).
  • Outside of the US territory? Contact the US Social Security office, Embassy, or closest Consulate.

How much will I get?

If you receive benefits under your work record, you will collect this amount first. However, if you are also applying for spousal benefits, you will receive the higher amount between both of them.

According to your full retirement age

If you apply:

  • Between the age of 62 and your full retirement age, the amount you get will be reduced on a 35% until you reach full retirement age.
  • At your full retirement age, your benefit may be equal to half the amount of your spouse’s full benefit.

If you receive benefits from a non-Social Security institution, your husband’s profits will be reduced. Now, if they come from any Social Security program, no modification occurs.

The number of your benefits, added to your spouse’s, could help to decide if receiving benefits earlier is more advantageous or not.

Benefits for your family

Also, if one of your spouse’s children are entitled to get benefits, there is a limit to the amount that the family can receive.

The total depends on your spouse’s amount and the number of eligible members. Generally, the amount is between 150% to 180% of the worker’s full retirement benefit.

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