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Social Security Spousal and Survivor Benefits - Part 2

Anyone who is or was married has many Social Security benefit options to choose from.  If you are currently married you may be entitled to 100 percent of your own benefit or 50 percent of your spouse’s benefit.  You can’t receive spousal benefits until your spouse begins taking Social Security benefits and you can’t receive spousal benefits if your spouse has temporarily suspended their benefit.  You can begin taking spousal benefits as early as 62 but benefits taken before your full retirement age will be reduced.  At your full retirement age, your spousal benefit cannot exceed 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement amount.  Unfortunately, spousal benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits that your spouse may receive.  

If you were born before January 2, 1954 and you have already reached your full retirement age, you have the option to take your spousal benefit and delay taking your benefit until a later date.  If you were born after January 2, 1954 this option no longer exists.  This restriction also applies to benefits for a divorced spouse.

If you are a widow or widower of someone who was eligible for Social Security benefits you can receive the higher of 100 percent of your benefit or 100 percent of your spouse’s benefit.  You must have been married for at least 9 months to be eligible for survivor benefits.You can earn full benefits at your full retirement age or a reduced benefit as early as 60.  A widow or widower can begin taking survivors benefits at age 60, at a reduced rate, and later switch to their own benefit, if it is larger.

If you remarry before age 60, you can’t receive benefits as a surviving spouse while you are married.If you remarry after age 60 you can continue receiving spousal benefits.  In this situation, take the higher of your own benefit, your survivors benefit or the spousal benefit based on your new spouses Social Security record.

If you are divorced and were married at least 10 years, you have the choice of taking your own benefit or one half of your ex-spouses full retirement benefit.  You can receive benefits on your ex-spouses record if they qualify and you have been divorced for at least two years, even if they have not applied for retirement benefits.  Additionally, to qualify for benefits on an ex-spouses record you must be unmarried and at least 62.

If you receive a pension for work that wasn’t covered by Social Security, your Social Security spousal or survivor benefits may be reduced.  If you are still working and take benefits before your full retirement age, you may be impacted by the retirement earnings test. 

Please visit the Social Security website at ssa.gov for more information about your specific situation, especially if you are disabled or have a qualified child under the age of 16 because different rules may apply.