What are Social Security Spousal & Widow Benefits?
Social Security spousal and widow benefits are programs provided by the federal government to strengthen the financial security of spouses and widows/widowers of qualified individuals. Spousal benefits from Social Security can be a valuable source of income for those who have either lower lifetime earnings or are married to someone with higher lifetime earnings. It allows one spouse to claim a benefit based on the other spouse's work record, even if they have never worked themselves.
Widow or widower benefits are available to surviving spouses of deceased Social Security beneficiaries. If a spouse passes away, the surviving spouse may be eligible to receive a benefit based on the deceased spouse's work record. Widow benefits can provide a valuable source of income for those who have experienced the loss of a spouse. It's important to understand the eligibility requirements and how the benefit is calculated to ensure that you can receive the maximum benefit available.
Spousal Benefits: Important Things to Know
- Eligibility - To be eligible for spousal benefits, the recipient:
- must be at least 62 years old and
- their spouse must already be receiving Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
- Amount of Benefit - The amount of the spousal benefit is based on:
- the earnings history of the spouse who has worked and
- the recipient's age at the time they start receiving benefits.
- In general, spousal benefits are equal to 50 percent of the spouse's full retirement age (FRA) benefit amount.
- One Benefit at a Time - It's important to note that individuals who are eligible for their own Social Security retirement benefits based on their work record and spousal benefits can only receive one at a time.
- Combination of Benefits - However, if the spousal benefit is higher than a person's own benefit, that person will receive their full benefit first and then get an additional amount on their record so that the combination of benefits is equal to the spousal benefit. In other words, you are still receiving the highest amount you are eligible for; it simply is a combination of your and your spouse's benefits as opposed to being simply classified as a spousal benefit.
Spousal Benefits and Retirement Planning
Another key feature of spousal benefits is that they can be a valuable tool in retirement planning for married couples. When strategically timing when one spouse claims their retirement benefit, doing so can trigger the availability of spousal benefits for the other spouse. This can result in thousands of dollars in additional income throughout retirement.
Widow Benefits: Important Things to Know
- Eligibility - To qualify, the surviving spouse must be at least 60 years old, or 50 years old if they are disabled.
- Children - If the surviving spouse is caring for the deceased spouse's child under the age of 16, the surviving spouse may be eligible for the benefit at any age.
- Amount of Benefit - The amount of the benefit is based on the deceased spouse's earnings history.
- If the deceased spouse had a higher earnings history, the surviving spouse may receive a higher monthly benefit.
- If the surviving spouse is receiving a benefit based on their own earnings record, they may be able to switch to the widow benefit if it is higher.
Widow Benefits and Remarriage
It is important to note that remarriage can affect eligibility for widow benefits.
- If the surviving spouse remarries before the age of 60 (or age 50 if disabled), they will no longer be eligible for the widow benefit.
- If the remarriage occurs after the age of 60 (or age 50 if disabled), the surviving spouse can continue to receive the benefit.
Social Security spousal and widow benefits are a valuable resource for spouses and widows/widowers of qualified individuals. Understanding the eligibility requirements, claiming rules, and benefit options can help individuals maximize their Social Security benefits and improve their financial well-being.
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