Social Security retirement benefits are often referred to as “earned benefits.” That’s because you pay payroll taxes that fund Social Security and earn work loans that entitle you to this retirement income. The amount you receive is also based on the average wage over your career.
But what about people who have never had a job outside the home? Can they still get Social Security benefits even if they have not received a salary? The answer may surprise you.
Working is not a precondition for getting a Social Security retirement benefit
To be eligible for Social Security based on your own work history, you must have earned 40 work credits. You can earn up to four credits per year. So you must earn money at work for a minimum of 10 years to qualify for benefits based on your work record.
But it is important to realize that you do not necessarily have to apply for benefits based on your own career history. If you are married or have been married, you may qualify based on a spouse’s income history. And that’s good news for those who have built careers at home rather than in the professional world, because it means they can still be rewarded for their efforts with retirement benefits.
both husbands and survivor benefits are available based on a spouse’s work history — and you don’t need to have worked a day in your life to get them. Spousal benefits can be up to 50% of the employee’s standard benefit (the amount your spouse would receive at full retirement age (FRA)). And survivor benefits can equal 100% of the benefits your deceased spouse received or would have been entitled to at full retirement age.
This means you can get hundreds or even thousands of dollars in Social Security income to support you in your later years — even if you haven’t earned a salary of your own.
Who is entitled to partner and survivor benefits?
If you are currently married and have reached the age of 62, you should be entitled to spousal maintenance. However, your spouse must already have applied for his own Social Security check before you can get yours. If you do not wait until your full retirement age (between 66 and 2 months and 67), your partner’s pension will be reduced.
If you are divorced but have been married for at least 10 years, you can still claim spousal maintenance on your ex’s deed as long as you have not remarried. In this case, as long as you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can get your checks as soon as you turn 62, regardless of whether your ex got his own benefit or not.
Survivor benefits are also available if your spouse dies while you are married or if you are divorced but have been married for at least 10 years and you did not remarry before age 60. Survivor benefits are available once you turn 60 (or 50 if you are disabled), although you may receive benefits earlier if you care for unmarried or disabled children you shared with the deceased.
It is important to understand exactly how these benefits work and to know when you are entitled to them so that you can get the money you deserve from the Social Security Administration. Make sure you know the rules if you’ve never worked or if your spouse or ex-spouse earned more than you. In either situation, claiming your spouse’s work history can make you more money as a retiree.