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So What Does It Really Mean When You Have Social Security Spousal Benefits?

Spouses get to have social security benefits when his or her partner dies. Depending on circumstances, these benefits may go to current spouses, widowed spouses or ex-spouses.
To know if your spouse is eligible to the benefit, they should either be current spouses, widowed or ex-spouses you were married to for over 10 years and did not remarry before the age of 60. He or she must also be at least 62 years old to file for or receive a spousal benefit. However, they will not be eligible to receive a spousal benefit until the other files for their own benefit first.


The amount of the spousal benefit will not change whether the one on the receiving end is a current spouse or an ex-spouse, given the criteria stated. How much the spouse gets depends on your earnings record, or 50 percent of the spouse’s Social Security benefits basing on their full retirement age (FRA). All of these can be seen in the Social Security website. FYI, Social Security usually calculates and even pays a higher amount.
Meanwhile, a recent amendment on Social Security laws effective Nov. 2, 2015 states that those born on or after Jan. 2, 1954 will not be able to restrict their applications. Anyone born on or after Jan. 2, 1954 will automatically be considered to be filing for all benefits (spousal benefits included) that you are eligible to receive.
However, the amount will be permanently reduced if you and your spouse collect your spousal benefits before you reach FRA. But you may have some of your Social Security benefits back if you continue to work and receive earned income, though. You may earn these benefits from working without penalties or reductions when you reach FRA. Thus, it is encouraged for married couples to know when to begin collecting benefits by using an advanced Social Security calculator.
On the other hand, widowers can start collecting a survivor’s benefit as early as the age of 60. They can also restrict their application to file for either their own benefit or the widow/widower benefit, and may later switch to another benefit amount at the age of 70. Opting for this will give them a larger amount than their widow benefit.
While you may continue to receive the benefits upon the death of your spouse, you may not, however, receive both yours and your spouse’s. What’s good though, is that the surviving spouse living in the same household may receive a one-time lump-sum payment of $255 upon the spouse’s death.
Lastly, here’s a tip in winning the social security benefit game: You can maximize the highest-earning spouse’s benefit by delaying collection until the age 70. This will give married couples a decent amount of $50,000 to $250,000 of life insurance benefit.

Based On Materials From The Balance
Photo from Flickr

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