Spousal benefits are one of the best ways to boost your monthly Social Security check — or give you a Social Security check if you don’t qualify on your own. When a worker applies for retirement benefits through Social Security, the worker’s spouse may be eligible for a benefit as well, based on the worker’s earnings. Other requirements include the spouse being at least 62 years of age (the minimum age at which you can begin taking distributions) or having a qualifying child in their care. Qualifying child means a child under the age of 16 or one who receives Social Security disability benefits.
There is no specific benefit amount to be paid for spousal benefit checks, as the particular amount will be dependent on a number of factors, like the worker’s lifetime earnings and how long they worked. But according to the Social Security Administration, the average spousal benefit in 2020 was $690 for males and $807 for women.
The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the worker’s “primary insurance amount,” the SSA states, depending the spouse’s age at retirement. If the spouse decides to receive benefits before full retirement age, they’ll receive reduced benefits as a result, just as the worker will should they take early distributions. If the spouse is caring for a qualifying child, however, their spousal benefit is not reduced.
If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on their own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then the SSA pays them their retirement benefit — otherwise, it pays the spousal benefit.
You can enter your date of birth and the month you would like to begin receiving benefits on the SSA website here, and the SSA will tell you the effect early retirement will have on your spousal benefit as a percentage of the worker’s primary insurance amount.
With social security benefits getting an almost 6% boost this year through a new cost-of-living adjustment, and last year’s average spousal payments ranging between $700-800, claiming your spousal benefits can net you a big increase in income in 2022.
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