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Here Are Some Good Things For Married People To Keep In Mind About Social Security

A good marriage is priceless, right? But the truth is, it can also be financially advantageous, especially when it comes to Social Security.

Marriage can result in you or your spouse receiving more Social Security and, if you stay married for a minimum of 10 years, your benefits could continue even if a divorce occurs. But you’re not automatically entitled to more Social Security benefits just because you’re married; in fact, most people will receive the biggest benefit by claiming on their own record. If, however, you marry someone who earns significantly more money than you do, you might receive more Social Security by claiming spousal benefits.

One thing’s for certain: Being better informed could help you be in the money. Here are some must-know rules for marriage and Social Security:

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Spousal Benefit

The maximum spousal benefit is 50% of your spouse’s primary insurance amount, which is the benefit they’ll qualify for at full retirement age (67 for anyone born in 1960 or later). In terms of your own Social Security, if you opt to take benefits before your own full retirement age, you’ll receive less than 50%. For example, if you start taking benefits at 62, the earliest age you can take Social Security, you’ll be eligible for just 32.5% of the primary amount.

No Spousal Credit For Waiting Past Full Retirement Age

If you’re taking Social Security on your own record, you’ll be eligible for the maximum benefit at age 70. For every year you delay Social Security, you’ll be boosting your checks by 8% for life. Unfortunately, the same doesn’t hold true for spousal benefits. You can’t earn delayed retirement benefits if you’re taking spousal benefits; your benefits max out once you reach full retirement age.

It might be true that you can’t put a price on true love, but there is a limit on how much spousal Social Security money you’re entitled to. You can claim whichever Social Security benefit is higher – yours or your spouse’s – but you can’t claim both. If you qualify for benefits based on your earnings history, generally Social Security will use your own record first, then they’ll use your spouse’s record to ensure you get the maximum benefit.

If you’ve paid into Social Security and you have a qualifying medical condition, you can claim Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). You can’t, however, take disability on someone else’s record, including your spouse’s.

Survivor’s Benefits

If your spouse dies before you, you can qualify for up to 100% of your Social Security through survivor benefits if you wait until your full retirement age. If you choose to start receiving survivor benefits as early as 60, or 50 if you’re disabled, you’ll receive a lesser amount. The same rules apply to ex-spouses if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. As with spousal benefits, you’ll be eligible to get whichever benefit is bigger, your own benefit or the survivor benefit, but you won’t be entitled to both. One exception:  Widowed and ex-spouses who qualify for survivor benefits can remarry at 60 (or 50 if disabled) and continue to receive their late spouse’s benefits.

Photo: Shutterstock/David Prado Perucha

Benefits After Divorce and Remarriage

You can claim your ex-spouse’s Social Security if you were married for at least 10 years and you’ve been divorced for at least two years. The same spousal rules apply:  Your maximum benefit will be 50% of their primary amount, you’ll receive a lower amount if you claim early, and you won’t earn delayed retirement credits for waiting past your full retirement age. Your ex-spouse needs to be at least 62 for you to claim on their record, and your decision will have absolutely no effect on the amount of benefit your ex-spouse receives. Likewise, if someone you’ve divorced takes Social Security on your record, your benefits won’t be reduced.

If you say “I do” again, claiming your ex’s Social Security is a don’t: You’re not allowed to claim your ex’s Social Security benefits. Once you’ve been married for a year, however, you can qualify for benefits on your current spouse’s record. If you’ve had more than one marriage that lasted 10 years or longer and ended in divorce, Social Security will look at everyone’s record, including yours and each ex-spouse’s, and award you the biggest benefit.