Married? 3 things you need to know about Social Security – Community News
Social Security

Married? 3 things you need to know about Social Security

Social Security is an important source of income for millions of seniors. And if you’re married, you have an excellent chance of making the most of those benefits. Here are three things to know about Social Security if you are married and retiring.

1. You can apply for a benefit based on your spouse’s employment history

To qualify for Social Security in retirement, you must accumulate 40 work credits during your lifetime. The value of a job credit can change from year to year, but if you’ve mostly had very part-time jobs, or if you’ve never worked at all, you may not have the minimum amount of credit required to qualify for benefits.

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But that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck at all. If you are married, you may receive a spouse allowance based on your spouse’s work record, and your benefit will be equal to half of what your spouse receives. If your spouse is entitled to a $2,000 monthly benefit, you may be eligible for a $1,000 benefit.

Even if you have worked and are entitled to your own benefit, you may still be eligible for a partner’s benefit. Whether you collect them depends on which option you pay more – your own benefit or half of your spouse’s. Social Security will pay you the higher benefit of the two, but you cannot double dip and collect your own benefit plus a partner alimony.

2. You can only apply for a partner’s pension if your spouse does

If you depend on partner’s benefits to provide you with retirement income and you are still married, you should know that you are not allowed to claim them until your spouse has filed for Social Security. Your spouse may be happy to postpone his or her application for a higher benefit for life. But by doing so, your spouse can prevent you from getting your money sooner.

That is why it is important to draw up an archiving strategy together with your partner. Working together can help you arrive at the ideal time to sign up for benefits.

3. There’s no point in postponing partner benefits

When you’re applying for Social Security benefits based on your own earnings, it may pay to defer your application. For every year you wait to take benefits after full retirement age (FRA), until age 70, you get an 8% increase. This means that if your FRA is 67, but you delay your application until age 70, you will increase your benefit by 24% – for life.

But if you apply for spousal maintenance, the rules are very different. In fact, there is no financial incentive to defer a partner benefit after FRA because the partner benefits cannot grow. So if your FRA is 67 and your spouse is already collecting Social Security by the time you reach that age, you might as well apply.

Read the rules for married couples

Being married has its perks – someone to share not only your retirement with, but also the costs. If you’re counting on Social Security to provide much of your senior income, it pays to read the rules for spouses so you can make smart choices about your benefits.