Social Security Spousal Benefits Eligibility

If you’re married and your spouse is at least 62 years old, they may earn up to half of their benefit without affecting survivor benefits. But how does that work?

Let’s say you and your partner are eligible for retirement benefits, but the higher-earning spouse chooses not to claim the spousal benefit. If that person died before retirement, the survivor (check) would collect 100% of their partner’s retirement benefits. And that’s all well and good, but wouldn’t it be nice if you could collect some or all of your higher-earning partner’s benefits?

Yes, it would, so let’s explain how this works.

The Benefits of Retirement Benefit Eligibility

First, let’s examine the rules determining whether someone can claim their spouse’s retirement benefits. Once your eligibility has been verified through the application process, your claim will be approved if you’re still entitled to receive retirement benefits. If that doesn’t make much sense, it means you may claim those benefits if you’re over 62 and are not receiving retirement benefits or are over 60 and still working.

According to the SSA, a retired worker can receive retirement benefits according to their work record (or spouse or ex-spouse) if: someone else has been claiming the benefit on your work record, or you qualify under the special age requirements, or you qualify under disability and are eligible for Medicare.

How Retirement Benefit Eligibility Works

The benefits of retirement benefit eligibility are relatively straightforward. You receive retirement benefits if you—or your spouse—have paid into the system for a certain period (you’re protected once you reach age 62). In your spouse’s case, the marriage must be legitimate to receive the spousal benefit. However, you will still receive those retirement benefits if your marriage is annulled. Otherwise, your spouse would have to be your legal spouse to receive the benefits.

While the rules for retirement benefit eligibility vary by the type of benefit you’re claiming, a few key rules apply to anyone who wants to receive their spouse’s retirement benefits. The Basic Eligibility Rules: first, your marriage must be legal for you to collect spousal benefits. If you marry someone between claiming retirement benefits and reaching retirement age, your spousal benefits will be discontinued. Lastly, you must be 62 to collect your spouse’s retirement benefits.

The Retirement Benefit Eligibility Rules

After your spouse turns 62, they can opt to claim the retirement benefits and allow you to collect a spousal benefit in the amount of 50% or 25% of their benefit. However, your benefit will be reduced if they choose not to claim their retirement benefits and if you claim early survivor benefits (you’re 62 or older). That benefit reduction is calculated by subtracting one-half of your spouse’s full retirement age benefit amount from the survivor benefits you would receive if they passed away before retirement age.

Claiming the Spousal Benefit

Spousal benefits, if applicable, can be claimed at any time after achieving full retirement age if your spouse does not file for retirement benefits themselves. The amount of those payments will be based on your spouse’s full age of retirement benefit amount plus any delayed retiring credits they may have.

In conclusion, if you’re married and receive retirement benefits, you may be able to collect up to half of those benefits if your spouse does not claim the retirement benefit on their work record. And that’s great news for those in a couple where both partners are eligible for retirement benefits.