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Most workers expect to receive Social Security benefits when they retire—and if they’ve earned at least 40
Social Security credits during their career, they will. What they may not expect is the additional benefit their spouse can receive as a result. Consider these often surprising facts about the lesser-known social security spousal benefit program.

Your spouse can get spousal benefits even if he or she has never worked. Because the benefits are based on your work history, it’s not necessary for your husband or wife to have accumulated any Social Security credits to receive them. This is important for single-earner families, a category that was much larger back when the Social Security program was established than it is today.

If you choose early retirement, it won’t affect your spouse’s benefits. If you start drawing your Social Security benefit between age 62 and full retirement age, you’ll receive reduced benefits as a result. However, your spouse will still receive the full spousal benefit amount based on your earnings as long as he or she waits to begin collecting until full retirement age.

Your spouse won’t get a larger benefit for delaying retirement. If you delay collecting Social Security payments until the age of 70, your monthly checks may be 32 percent larger than they would have been if you started at age 66. However, your husband or wife should begin collecting spousal benefits at age 66. Waiting longer will not increase the amount he or she receives.

Your ex may still be eligible for spousal benefits.If you two were married for 10 years or more, and your ex does not remarry, he or she may be able to collect the spousal benefits he or she would have received if you were still together. This is true regardless of whether or not you have remarried.

If you’re married and have both worked enough years to earn the required 40 retirement credits, you should still check into spousal Social Security benefits—especially if one of you earned significantly more than the other. In general, the SSA will pay each of you benefits based on your own record. However, if one of you can qualify for more benefits as a spouse than as an individual, he or she can receive a combination of benefits to equal that higher amount.

Social Security makes up a sizable portion of the retirement earnings of many Americans—but it’s rarely enough to ensure financial security in your later years. That requires a thoughtful and well-executed financial plan. If you need to create one or want to evaluate the suitability of the plan you currently have, we’re here to help.

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