When someone has been married to a Social Security recipient for 10 years or more, they are entitled to apply for spousal Social Security benefits. Even if the marriage is over, ex-spouses might request spousal benefits if they had been divorced for at least 2 years and were married for 10 years or more. It does not matter how long they have been divorced, as long as they were married for 10 years. Moreover, spouses who have an eligible child might file a request for spousal benefits as well. An eligible child consists of a child who is 15 years old or younger, in addition to every child who possesses a disabling condition.
It is important to point out that the spousal benefit is a fraction of the spouse’s income at full retirement age, and it might change depending on when the spouse files the request. Spouses who wait until reaching Full Retirement Age (FRA) will receive 50% of their spouse’ Social Security benefits, calculated at FRA.
The FRA is 66 years old, but spouses can request their spousal benefits earlier. Nonetheless, they must consider that if claimed earlier, spousal benefits could be reduced –permanently- down to less than 40% of their spouse’s benefits. Therefore, it is recommended to wait as long as possible to claim spousal benefits. However, spousal benefits will not be reduced if the spouse is taking care of an eligible child for benefits, or if the child has a disability; in which case it is wise to file the request of spousal benefits as early as possible.
Let us point out that while eligible citizens might be able to postpone requesting their Social Security benefits in order to increase their income, spouses are not granted with the same luxury. Hence there is no reason for spouses to wait pass FRA to request their spousal benefits.
As mentioned before, social security benefits provide citizens with a living wage, which grants them with the necessary resources to live a dignified life. Eligible couples are lucky because they can combine both of their benefits and increase their overall gains. Those couples, who are planning their upcoming Social Security incomes, could try to implement the following strategies to increase their income as much as possible.
The first and most obvious option is for spouses to claim their spousal benefits as soon as they reach the full retirement age. By doing so, the house income will increase by 50%. Although there are some aspects that must be taken into consideration. For instance, Social Security benefits vary depending on individual circumstances, and consequently, some recipients receive a higher income than others. Therefore, spouses who were previously divorced, must compare which partner’s benefits provide the higher income, and choose the one with the greater benefits.
Furthermore, spouses who are eligible for Social Security can schedule when to request their benefits in order to increase their income. Social Security prospects are granted 100% of their benefits once they reach 66 years old -which is the full retirement age for Social Security holders. Nonetheless, those who delay retirement can increase their earnings monthly, reaching a maximum of 132% at age 70.
As a result, spouses can benefit from this possibility by delaying requesting their Social Security benefits for four years, and instead request and claim their spousal benefits until they have reached the maximum possible earning for Social Security recipients.
The recommendations stated before are meant to maximize the benefits that couples receive from their Social Security. Nevertheless, couples should keep in mind that each scenario is different, and the same approach does not necessarily apply to all couples. As previously stated, some spouses might earn more money if they request their Social Security benefits as a widow or survival, while other spouses might earn a higher income filing a request for spousal benefits. And even when people decide to request their benefits through spousal benefits, some might earn more money through their ex-spouse’s Social Security, rather than their current spouse, or vice versa.
Due to the multiple settings of Social Security, many people qualify for different programs, and consequently receive different benefits. Before completing the application for Social Security benefits, couples figure out how they can maximize their income as much as possible. By doing so, couples will have the information and resources that they need, to live a life according to their expectations