By Henry Martin, Social Security District Manager in Glen Burnie, MD
Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. Here are a few things to remember when you’re planning for your retirement. Your spouse’s benefit amount could be up to 50 percent of your full retirement age benefit amount. If you qualify for a benefit from your own work history and a spouse’s record, we always pay your own benefit first. You cannot receive spouse’s benefits unless your spouse is receiving their retirement benefits (except for divorced spouses).
If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to reach retirement age, your own retirement portion remains reduced. When you add spouse’s benefits later, the total retirement and spouses benefit together will total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more about this at www.ssa.gov/OACT/quickcalc/spouse.html.
If your spouse’s retirement benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefits and dies first, your survivor benefit will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received.
If your deceased spouse started receiving reduced retirement benefits before their full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefit limit may apply to you. The retirement insurance benefit limit is the maximum survivor benefit you may receive. Generally, the limit is the higher of:
- The reduced monthly retirement benefit the deceased spouse would have been entitled to if they had lived, or
- 82.5 percent of the unreduced deceased spouse’s monthly benefit if they had started receiving benefits at their full retirement age (rather than choosing to receive a reduced retirement benefit early).
Knowing about these benefits can help you plan your financial future. Access a wealth of useful information and use our benefits planners at www.ssa.gov/benefits/retirement.