Social Security and Your Spouse

Q: Even though my spouse has never worked, I was told she can still receive benefits from Social Security since we’re married. Is that true?

A: Yes, that is correct. If you’re legally married, there are many benefits available to spouses, so it’s important for you and your spouse to coordinate your filing strategy to maximize your income from Social Security.

Many people know that they’re eligible for Social Security benefits, but did you know that there’s also a provision to provide for spouses, regardless of whether they’ve contributed to the program? You might also be eligible to claim spousal benefits if you’re widowed and, in some cases, even if you’re divorced. Access to these spousal Social Security benefits is just one of many reasons why marriage equality continues to be so critical for our LGBTQ+ community.

You may be surprised to learn that if you apply for Social Security when you are married, you automatically apply for spousal benefits (if you’re entitled to them). This was added to recognize the many spouses who were stay-at-home parents and either never entered the workforce or didn’t enter the workforce for long enough to qualify for benefits of their own.1,2

How does claiming spousal benefits work? 

For spouses to receive benefits, they must:

  • Be at least 62-years-old or older or…
  • Caring for a child 16-years-old or younger, or for a child receiving Social Security disability benefits. If you’re in this situation, Social Security benefits are not reduced.
  • Your husband or wife must have also claimed Social Security benefits.
  • You and your spouse must have been married for at least one year.1,2

Spousal benefits are capped at 50% of the benefits your spouse would have received at their full retirement age (FRA). 

What about if my spouse passes away?

It’s important to note that if your spouse dies, you would apply for survivor benefits and not spousal benefits. For people who are widowed, if your spouse’s benefits are higher than yours, you might be eligible to receive their full benefit amount instead of spousal benefits. However, if you remarry, you won’t be eligible to receive your late spouse’s Social Security benefits.3,4

What if my spouse and I are divorced?

There are also certain conditions where you can receive spousal benefits even if you’re divorced. The following conditions must be met:

  • You and your ex-spouse must had been married for at least 10 years.
  • You must be divorced from your ex-spouse for at least two consecutive years.
  • You must be currently unmarried.
  • Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
  • The benefits you would have received from your work record must be less than the spousal benefits.3,4

Spouses enjoy a lot of flexibility thanks to Social Security spousal benefits. As you near retirement, you’ll want to be sure to speak with your financial advisor to properly explore your options on how best to take advantage of the program and maximize your benefits.

Sources:

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/09/02/how-claiming-social-security-early-affects-your-spousal-benefits.html

https://www.bankrate.com/retirement/social-security-spousal-benefits/

https://www.marketwatch.com/story/how-do-i-claim-social-security-from-my-exs-earnings-11630534142

https://www.investopedia.com/ask/answers/110614/how-does-my-spousal-social-security-benefit-work.asp

Jeremy R. Gussick is a Certified Financial Planner™ professional affiliated with LPL Financial, the nation’s largest independent broker-dealer.* Jeremy specializes in the financial planning and retirement income needs of the LGBTQ+ community and was recently named a 2022 FIVE STAR Wealth Manager as mentioned in Philadelphia Magazine.** He is active with several LGBTQ+ organizations in the Philadelphia region, including DVLF (Delaware Valley Legacy Fund) and the Independence Business Alliance (IBA), the Philadelphia Region’s LGBT Chamber of Commerce. OutMoney appears monthly. If you have a question for Jeremy, you can contact him via email at [email protected].

This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information and provided with the assistance of Twenty Over Ten. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.

Jeremy R. Gussick is a Registered Representative with, and securities and advisory services are offered through LPL Financial, a Registered Investment Advisor, Member FINRA/SIPC.

*As reported by Financial Planning magazine, June 1996-2022, based on total revenues.

**Award based on 10 objective criteria associated with providing quality services to clients such as credentials, experience, and assets under management among other factors. Wealth managers do not pay a fee to be considered or placed on the final list of 2022 Five Star Wealth Managers.