When a worker files for Social Security benefits, their spouse may also qualify for benefits even if they never worked. The Social Security spousal benefit is paid out monthly to the spouse, age 62 or older, of a worker who qualifies for Social Security. An ex-spouse may also qualify if they were married to the worker for at least 10 years and never remarried.
According to the Social Security Administration, the spousal benefit is up to 50% of a worker’s benefit at full retirement age, which is age 66 or 67. Claiming benefits before full retirement age reduces your benefit amount. If you claim at age 62, you could get as little as 32.5% of your spouse’s benefit instead of 50%.
You cannot receive your spousal benefit unless your spouse is receiving their retirement benefits. However, if you’re an ex-spouse, that waiting period doesn’t apply as long as your former spouse is eligible to receive their retirement. However, you do need to be divorced for at least two years if you wish to claim benefits before your ex-spouse does.
According to the Social Security Administration, as of February 2023, the average Social Security spousal benefit is $899.20 per month, which adds up to about $10,790 per year. While this may not seem like much, your spouse also receives their own (much larger) Social Security check based on their work history.
Are You Retirement Ready?
If you’re looking to increase your Social Security spousal benefit, you can delay benefits until full retirement age or work long enough to qualify for a large benefit based on your own work history. You can still qualify for spousal benefits if the spousal benefit is worth more than your own Social Security retirement benefit.
For a better understanding of how much you could get from a Social Security spousal benefit, you can use the SSA’s Benefits for Spouses calculator.
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Cynthia Measom contributed to the reporting for this article.