Married couples have an advantage when it comes to Social Security. It’s called the “spousal benefit” and it allows the lower-earning spouse to collect up to 50% of the higher-earning spouse’s benefit at full retirement age.
For example, if one spouse’s benefit at full retirement age is $2,000 but the other spouse’s benefit is only $750 based on her or his own work history, the latter can opt to collect the spousal benefit of $1,000 instead at full retirement age (as long as the first spouse is collecting his or her benefit), thereby bringing in $250 more in income each month.
Even if you’re divorced, you might still have the ability to collect Social Security spousal benefits based on your former spouse’s earnings. To qualify, all of the following must be true:
- Your marriage lasted at least 10 years
- You are currently unmarried
- You are age 62 or older
- Your former spouse is entitled to Social Security benefits
- Your own benefit is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work history
There also are other factors that could affect your spousal benefits, such as if you were born before 1954, whether your ex-spouse has applied for retirement benefits yet, and whether you have reached full retirement age. For complete details, visit ssa.gov or schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office.