Social Security Spousal Benefits – The Basics [Video]

social security spousal benefits

This video covers the basics of Social Security Spousal Benefits and how they work whether you’re married, divorced or widowed. I hope you find it helpful.

Transcript of Video:

Hey there. Today I’d like to cover the basics of Social Security spousal benefits. As I’ve spent decades now working with individuals and families, I’ve also had the opportunity to work with a lot of divorced women, widows, and then other family situations, and I’ve found a lot of confusion around the topic of social security and specifically social security spousal benefits. 

I just want to cover some quick basics today to provide you with a little bit of information and hopefully, maybe clear up some things for you. As a married spouse, you are entitled to your own or half of your spouses social security retirement benefits, whichever is higher. 

As a quick example, let’s say that you’ve worked off and on or full time and your social security benefit will be $1000 a month at full retirement age. Let’s say that’s age 67. Your spouse has also worked. He or she has potentially earned more income over their lifetime and their full retirement age social security benefit’s going to be $2500 a month. In that situation, half of their benefit, half of 2500 is 1250, which is higher than the $1000 benefit you’ve earned on your own. And so what you have the option to do is to notify social security once you begin your Social Security benefits that you would like to take spousal benefits. So what social security will do is actually give you your benefit of $1000 and then they’ll basically make up the difference and pay an additional $250 benefit to get you up to the higher of yours or your half of your spouse’s social security benefits. So that’s the way that works. 

Some interesting wrinkles come into play however in the situation of divorce or widowhood. So if you were married for ten or more years and subsequently divorced from your spouse, you’re still eligible for spousal benefits and they work the same way. So if you were married for ten or more years, now you’re divorced, you can still choose to take your benefit or half of your ex-spouse’s benefit, whichever is higher. And if you survive your spouse, meaning your husband or wife pre-deceases you, you’re then eligible to get 100% of their social security benefit if it’s higher than your own. So, there’s a lot of other wrinkles that come into play when you’re talking about remarriage and timing and things like that. 

This doesn’t get into issues like optimizing how to get the most social security over your lifetime. I’m just laying out some basic facts around which I find a lot of confusion. So a quick refresher, if you are married, you can choose to take yours or half of your spouse’s social security benefits, whichever is the higher amount. If you’re divorced, but you were married for ten or more years, same rules apply. You can take yours or half of your ex-spouse’s social security benefit, whichever’s higher. And whether you’re married or divorced, if your spouse passes away before you, you’re then eligible to take, again, continue to take your own if it’s the higher amount, or 100% of your spouse’s or ex-spouse’s social security benefit in the case of survivor benefits. So again, just covering the basics. Hope you find that helpful and I will look forward to sharing with you more next time. 

End Transcript

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Russ Thornton
Russ Thornton
Hi there! I'm Russ, and I help women in their 50s and 60s achieve and maintain their desired lifestyle leading up to and throughout their retirement years. Imagine being able to look forward to a comfortable and confident financial future...
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