Maximizing Social Security: Key Facts for Seniors on Spousal Benefits

There are retirement benefits, and married couples typically receive extra benefits. Married retirees have advantages over singles, including accessing Social Security payments as spouse recipients, benefiting from each other’s savings, and support during illness.

Understanding the intricacies of these benefits can be financially advantageous. Here are some fundamental rules to help you make the most of Social Security spousal benefits in retirement.

1. Up to 50% of Your Spouse’s Monthly Benefit

Suppose your spouse receives Social Security benefits and passes away before you. In that case, you may be entitled to survivor benefits, equal to 100% of what your spouse received when alive, provided you wait until full retirement age (FRA) to claim them. 

Spousal help, on the other hand, have a maximum cap of 50% of your spouse’s monthly Social Security benefit, assuming you don’t claim before reaching FRA. 

If you have your own Social Security benefit based on your earnings record, you can still receive a spousal benefit if it’s higher, but only the larger of the two will be paid out. You won’t receive both simultaneously.

2. Delaying Filing for Spousal Benefits Offers No Financial Incentive

For individual Social Security benefits based on your earnings history, delaying your filing past FRA can increase your monthly use by 8% per year up to age 70. 

However, this increase doesn’t apply to spousal benefits. You can’t grow your spousal benefit by delaying your filing beyond FRA. The maximum you can receive is 50% of your spouse’s benefit.

3. Divorce Doesn’t Disqualify You from Spousal Benefits

Contrary to what the term “spousal benefits” may suggest, you don’t need to be currently married to claim them. If certain conditions are met, divorced individuals can also be eligible for spousal benefits. 

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Claiming Your Share of Social Security

To qualify for spousal benefits as a divorcee, you must have been married to the person whose record you’re claiming benefits on for at least ten years and must not be remarried. 

The maximum spousal benefit you can receive if you’re divorced is 50% of what your ex-spouse collects. Unlike married individuals, you don’t necessarily have to wait for your former spouse to apply for Social Security to claim spousal benefits.

Understanding the rules and nuances of spousal benefits from Social Security can significantly impact your financial well-being in retirement, especially if you’re not eligible for a monthly use based on your earnings history. 

Be sure to grasp these fundamental rules and consider consulting with a financial advisor to make informed decisions and maximize your Social Security benefits as a married or divorced retiree.

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