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Maximizing Your Nest Egg: Understanding Spousal Benefits for Social Security

May 03, 2024

Social Security is a vital source of income for many retirees. But did you know that spouses can also benefit from a worker's Social Security record? Spousal benefits can provide a significant financial boost and play a key role in retirement planning for couples.

Who Qualifies for Spousal Benefits?

To be eligible for spousal benefits, you must be at least 62 years old and meet one of the following conditions:

  • Be married to a spouse who is already receiving retirement or disability benefits.
  • Have been married for at least nine months to a spouse who has died and was receiving benefits at the time of death.
  • Be caring for a child under 16 or a child with a disability who receives benefits on your spouse's Social Security record (even if you are not yet 62).

How Much Can You Receive?

The amount you receive as a spousal benefit depends on your spouse's "primary insurance amount" (PIA), which is basically the full retirement benefit they earned based on their work history. Here's the breakdown:

  • Up to 50% of your spouse's PIA: This is the maximum amount you can receive if you wait until your full retirement age (FRA) to claim benefits.
  • Reduced benefit if you claim early: If you start receiving spousal benefits before your FRA, the amount will be permanently reduced. The reduction can be as much as 25/36 of one percent for each month before FRA, up to a certain point.

There's an important exception: If you are caring for a child under 16 or a disabled child receiving benefits on your spouse's record, you can receive your full spousal benefit even before your FRA without any reduction.

Planning for Spousal Benefits

Spousal benefits offer a valuable opportunity to increase your retirement income. Here are some tips for maximizing your benefits:

  • Coordinate your claiming strategy with your spouse: Consider your respective ages, FRAs, and planned retirement dates to determine the best time for each of you to claim benefits.
  • Estimate your benefits: Use the Social Security Administration's online tools (https://www.ssa.gov/benefits/calculators/) to estimate your potential spousal benefit amount.
  • Get help from a retirement planner: Our advisors can help you navigate the complexities of Social Security and develop a personalized retirement plan that factors in spousal benefits. Our comprehensive Questpoint Formula is used to monitor your critical life and financial events (like planning for spousal benefits), staying fluid and dynamic to help make corrections as needed and ensure that you pursue your retirement goals.

By understanding spousal benefits, you can make informed decisions about your retirement income and work towards a secure financial future.

*Not endorsed by or affiliated with the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.