Social Security spousal benefits

Social Security provides spousal benefits based on the earnings record of the spouse. For a spouse to claim a benefit, their spouse must have filed for their own retirement benefit.

Spousal benefits can be up to half of the claiming spouse’s retirement benefit. Many people do not know that in order to qualify for this maximum benefit, both spouses must delay filing until reaching at least their respective full retirement age (FRA). This makes the FRA a significant date in shaping claiming decisions.

If either spouse claims a benefit prior to their FRA, benefits for both spouses will be reduced. Here’s a calculator showing the impact of pre-FRA claiming ages on spousal benefits.

If one spouse has filed for their retirement benefit and then the second spouse files, the first spouse will qualify for a spousal benefit only if it is larger than their own retirement benefit. They will receive an additional benefit equal to the amount of the difference. This should be automatic, but it’s a good idea to confirm this with the agency.