It is not unusual to receive questions about Social Security benefits for spouses, today's topic. Usually these are a variation of "Friends say I should be getting one-half of my husbands SSA amount but I do not get near it. Why not?" SSA spousal benefits are very misunderstood so let's start with the basics.
First, spousal benefits are possible only when husband and wife are both alive. If one member of the couple is deceased, then SSA survivor not spousal benefits might be payable to the widow or widower. The two are different. A survivor benefit might be payable even if a spousal benefit was not.
Second, this article only concerns spousal benefits based on age. SSA spousal benefits also exist when young or disabled children are involved. For more information visit (www.socialsecurity. gov/retire2/yourspouse.htm).
Third, when you apply for retirement benefits SSA employees routinely investigate whether you are eligible for both your own retirement and for benefits as a spouse. This is why marriage information is asked for on retirement applications. You do not need to request that this be done. No spousal benefit might be payable but, if eligible for both, your own retirement is always paid first. If due additional benefits, you will get a combination of both to equal the higher spouse's benefit.
Based on age, the most a spouse might receive is one-half of their husband or wife's full retirement age amount. This is important. A spousal benefit is not based on your husband or wife's early retirement reduced amount but on their full, unreduced for age amount. If you receive Social Security through your husband or wife's record, the likely reason for getting less than half is that one or both of you started SSA benefits when younger than your full retirement age (FRA) but other reasons are possible.
As with retirement, starting SSA spousal benefits when younger than full retirement age (FRA) results in a permanently reduced amount because you are getting benefits for additional months.
Based on a FRA of 66, if you started spousal benefits at age 65, the amount payable would be roughly 46 percent of your husband or wife's full SSA retirement amount, the benefit before any reduction for early retirement. At 64, this would be about 42 percent, at 63 about 37.5 percent and, at age 62, about 35 percent. Full retirement ages plus a month by month reduction chart based on year of birth is online at www.socialsecurity.gov/retire2/retirechart.htm.
Visit the SSA Web site at (www.socialsecurity.gov) for information, retirement planning tools and an online retirement application. Services including verification of your existing benefit amount are at "What you can do online."
Call the SSA national toll-free number 800-772-1213 (TTY 800-325-0778) between the hours of 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. for information about your benefits or to make an appointment. To reach the Minot office directly, call 852-0604 between the hours of 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Howard I. Kossover is a public affairs specialist for the Social Security Administration. He works with organizations, government agencies and businesses. Questions of general interest can be sent to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.