Spousal Social Security Benefits - What To Know

The Pitti Group Wealth Management |

Social Security spousal benefits are a valuable component of the U.S. Social Security system, designed to provide financial support to spouses who may not have earned as much over their working years. Understanding when a spouse can take spousal benefits and how much they are entitled to can significantly impact retirement planning. In this article, we will explore the eligibility criteria, factors influencing the amount, and strategies to maximize spousal benefits.

Eligibility Criteria:

  1. Marital Status:

    • To qualify for spousal benefits, you must be legally married. This includes both opposite-sex and same-sex marriages.

  2. Duration of Marriage:

    • Typically, you must have been married for at least one year to claim spousal benefits. However, exceptions may apply in the case of disability or death.

  3. Age:

    • The age of the spouse plays a crucial role. To claim spousal benefits, the applicant must be at least 62 years old, the earliest age at which one can claim Social Security benefits.

  4. Spouse's Benefit Eligibility:

    • The primary earner (the spouse with the higher income) must have filed for their own Social Security benefits before the spouse can claim spousal benefits.

Amount of Spousal Benefits:

The amount of spousal benefits is influenced by several factors:

  1. Full Retirement Age (FRA):

    • The full retirement age is the age at which a person is entitled to receive full Social Security benefits. For spousal benefits, the amount is highest if claimed at the full retirement age, which is typically 66 or 67, depending on the year of birth.

  2. Earning Record of the Primary Earner:

    • Spousal benefits are generally equal to 50% of the primary earner's benefit amount at their full retirement age. If the spouse waits until their own FRA to claim benefits, they can receive the full 50%.

  3. Timing of Claiming:

    • Claiming spousal benefits before the full retirement age can result in a reduced benefit amount. Conversely, delaying the claim beyond the full retirement age can lead to increased benefits up to a maximum at age 70.

  4. Coordinate Benefit Claims:

    • Couples can maximize benefits by coordinating when each spouse claims their Social Security benefits.


Former spouse benefits:

  1. Eligibility Criteria:

    • Marriage Duration: The marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years for the divorced spouse to be eligible for benefits based on the ex-spouse's record.

    • Status: The divorced spouse must be currently unmarried, and if they have remarried, the subsequent marriage must have ended (by death, divorce, or annulment).

  2. Age Requirement:

    • The divorced spouse must be at least 62 years old to claim Social Security benefits.

  3. Ex-Spouse's Eligibility for Benefits:

    • The ex-spouse must be eligible to receive Social Security benefits, and their benefit amount must be higher than what the divorced spouse would receive based on their own work record.

  4. Full Retirement Age (FRA):

    • The divorced spouse can receive full benefits at their Full Retirement Age (FRA). The FRA varies depending on the year of birth but is typically around 66 or 67.

  5. Reduced Benefits or Delayed Retirement Credits:

    • The divorced spouse can choose to receive reduced benefits as early as age 62 or delay benefits until after their FRA to receive increased benefits (up to age 70).

  6. Benefit Calculation:

    • The amount of the divorced spouse's benefit is generally up to 50% of the ex-spouse's full retirement benefit. This may be less if the divorced spouse claims benefits before reaching their own Full Retirement Age.

  7. Independent Claiming:

    • The ex-spouse does not need to have applied for Social Security benefits for the divorced spouse to claim benefits on their record. As long as the marriage lasted at least 10 years and the divorced spouse meets the eligibility criteria, they can independently claim benefits on the ex-spouse's record.

  8. Notification:

    • It's important to note that the ex-spouse is not notified when the divorced spouse claims benefits based on their record.

  9. Survivor Benefits:

    • If the ex-spouse passes away, the divorced spouse may be eligible for survivor benefits, which can be up to 100% of the deceased ex-spouse's benefit.


Understanding the rules and strategies surrounding spousal benefits is crucial for couples planning their retirement. By coordinating benefit claims and considering the timing of each spouse's application, couples can make informed decisions that maximize their Social Security benefits and ensure financial security during their retirement years. It's advisable to consult with a financial advisor to tailor strategies to individual circumstances and optimize the overall retirement income.


The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice and it should not be relied on as such. It should not be considered a solicitation to buy or an offer to sell a security. It does not take into account any investor's particular investment objectives, strategies, tax status or investment horizon. You should consult your attorney or tax advisor.

The views expressed in this commentary are subject to change based on market and other conditions. These documents may contain certain statements that may be deemed forward looking statements. Please note that any such statements are not guarantees of any future performance and actual results or developments may differ materially from those projected. Any projections, market outlooks, or estimates are based upon certain assumptions and should not be construed as indicative of actual events that will occur.

The Pitti Group Wealth Management LLC (“The Pitti Group”) is a registered investment advisor. Advisory services are only offered to clients or prospective clients where The Pitti Group and its representatives are properly licensed or exempt from licensure. For additional information, please visit our website at https://link.edgepilot.com/s/0f98d2a7/WCbYp20FSkS-BoQo1J5YuA?u=https://www.thepittigroup.com/