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Answering the Most Common Questions About Social Security Spousal Benefits

Answering the Most Common Questions About Social Security Spousal Benefits

Social Security
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With more than 20 percent of Louisiana residents receiving Social Security benefits and 13.3 percent of beneficiaries receiving spousal benefits, Social Security is an important piece of the retirement puzzle for many Louisiana residents.  

Here are some of the most common questions (and answers) about the Social Security spousal benefit.

 Can I collect Social Security on my spouse’s record?
 Yes. You may qualify for spousal benefits if:

  • You and your spouse have been married for at least one year.
  • Your spouse is currently collecting retirement benefits or Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).
  • You are at least 62 years old. (The age requirement may be waived if you care for a child who is under 16 years old or has a disability.)

Spousal benefits are available regardless of whether you worked and are based on your spouse’s earnings record. Although you can claim the spousal benefit as early as age 62, the amount you receive will grow if you wait until full retirement age (which is between 66 and 67, depending on the year of birth; for people born in 1960 or after it’s age 67). You can receive between 32.5 percent and 50 percent of your spouse’s full Social Security benefit amount, depending on your age when you claim.

What if I earned my own Social Security benefit?
You are still able to claim Social Security based on your spouse’s income if you also earned your own —retirement benefit. However, if you are eligible for both a retirement benefit and a spousal benefit, you will receive the higher of the two amounts. Social Security does not combine the two.

What if I am divorced?
If you are divorced, the spousal benefit is still available to you. To qualify, you must have been married to your ex-spouse for at least 10 years, be 62 years old or older and remain unmarried. The benefit amount is the same as for someone who is still married — 32.5 percent to 50 percent of your spouse’s full benefit amount.

Unlike people who are still married, divorced recipients do not need to wait for an ex-spouse to claim their Social Security to receive spousal benefits. There is one more requirement in such cases: In addition to the eligibility criteria listed above, the marriage must have ended at least two years prior.

If I claim Social Security on my spouse’s or ex-spouse’s record, will it affect their payment?
No, claiming benefits based on a spouse’s or ex-spouse’s earnings record does not affect the amount of Social Security they receive.

How much will my payment be if I claim Social Security at 62 and my spouse retired at full retirement age?
Although your Social Security will be based on your spouse’s full retirement benefit, your payment will be reduced because you are claiming Social Security before your full retirement age. Under Social Security’s “deemed filing” rule, you are no longer able to separately claim retirement and spousal benefits. When applying for one benefit, you are also applying for the other if you are eligible.

For more answers to common Social Security questions, visit AARP’s Social Security Resource Center.

State fact sheets:

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