2020 Guide to Social Security for Married Couples

If you have fewer than 35 Social Security credits and are married, you may be able to get your spouse’s requirement benefits if you are at least 62 years old and your spouse receives retirement or disability benefits. You are also able to apply for and receive Medicare at age 65.


If you elect to seek Social Security spousal benefits rather than relying on your own work record alone, your benefit amount will be determined by such factors as your spouse’s full benefit amount, the date and your age when you begin receiving payments, and your own work history.


When you apply for Social Security spousal benefits:

  •               You can receive up to 50% of your spouse’s Social Security benefit.
  •               You can apply for benefits if you have been married for at least one year.


If you are divorced for at least two years and your marriage lasted over 10 years, you may also elect to claim the Social Security spousal benefit through your ex-spouse rather than your own work history.


To make the most of your spousal Social Security benefit understand how the timing of your claim can impact how much you receive and penalties for applying for benefits early, mainly a reduction in your Social Security benefit amount. Keep in mind that you’ll receive either your benefit or the spousal benefit, whichever is greater, whether you are married or divorced, if you meet the other eligibility requirements to claim the Social Security spousal benefit.


Electing Social Security benefits early is a major decision point for the younger spouse who may be missing Social Security credits and is 62 but not yet the full retirement age for his or her birth year. Filing early reduces your benefit amount and total Social Security benefit forever. To maximize your benefit amount, regardless if you claim based on your own work history or through marriage, wait until you reach your retirement age to claim your benefits.


Child-in-care spousal benefits can be claimed early without reductions to your overall Social Security benefit. This program allows you to claim Social Security benefits before reaching the age of 62 if you have at least one child who is under age 16 or disabled, and who is also receiving child Social Security benefits based on the work record of your spouse, who may be disabled and/or deceased. The other spouse however, needs to have earned 40 Social Security credits, for the other spouse to be able to seek child-in-care spousal benefits.


You can get more information about the Social Security spousal benefit and what you can expect to collect at the Social Security Administration website or at your local SSA office.

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