Never worked? Here’s Your Chance to Claim Social Security Anyway | Smart Change: Personal Finance

(Maurie Backman)

Many people grumble about having to pay Social Security taxes on their income. But those taxes have a purpose: to fund the program so it’s there for you when you’re ready to retire. In addition, by making money and paying Social Security taxes on your income, you will be eligible for benefits once your time in the job market comes to an end.

But even if you’ve never worked and never paid a cent to Social Security, you may still qualify for benefits from the program. Here’s how.

Spouses receive special allowances

If you are married to someone who qualifies for social security benefits, you are generally entitled to so-called partner benefits. These have special rules that differ from the regular benefits. But all in all, they give you the opportunity to collect Social Security even if you never paid into the program in your lifetime.

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The spousal benefit you can collect will depend on what your spouse qualifies for. If your spouse is entitled to a $2,000 monthly benefit, you are eligible for a $1,000 benefit, provided you wait until you reach full retirement age to sign up.

You can’t start collecting your monthly partner’s benefit until your spouse has filed for Social Security. If your spouse decides to defer their claim, you should sit quietly.

Additionally, while deferring Social Security can increase your monthly benefits if you file based on your own income record, you can’t get a partner’s benefit by waiting to claim it after full retirement age. If you are entitled to your full spousal maintenance at the age of 67, you might as well register at that time.

Marital benefits also apply to divorced persons

One of the nice things about spousal support is that you don’t have to be married to collect it. If you have been married to someone for 10 years or more and they qualify for social security, you can claim a partner’s benefit if you are divorced. And you generally don’t have to wait for your ex-spouse to claim Social Security to get those benefits yourself.

A great option to fall back on

Spousal benefits allow people who have never worked to collect Social Security benefits after retirement. But you may still want to apply for spousal maintenance, even if you were working.

Suppose your spouse has earned a high salary during his career and therefore qualifies for a monthly Social Security benefit of $2,500. Let’s say you were a lower earner in the meantime, so the benefit you’re entitled to, based on your pay history, is $1,100. Then you can choose to receive a partner’s benefit instead of your own benefit and you will then be left with € 1,250 per month.

Just to be clear: you cannot receive a partner allowance on top of your own benefit. The Social Security Administration will not let you double dip.

It pays to delve into Social Security benefits if you’re concerned that you haven’t earned enough in your lifetime and paid enough Social Security taxes to qualify for retirement benefits. You might be surprised at how much income you can actually collect.

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