Many of the clients that we serve have only one breadwinner. What does this mean? It simply means that only one member of the couple has the necessary 40 quarters of earnings history to qualify for a Social Security benefit. This is especially true for women as many of them were stay-at-home Moms and were never employed outside of the home. This was their choice and Congress decided they would not be jeopardized because of that choice. Many of them also may have only had minimum paying job during school or college and never obtained their 40 quarters.
One of the key strengths of the Social Security system is the provision for spouses of retired or disabled workers. Under certain circumstances, you, as a dependent family member, are eligible for Social Security payments called auxiliary benefits. These benefits are additional payments and do not reduce the worker’s benefit amount.
A spouse may be currently married to the worker, or may be a former spouse, divorced from the worker. The spouse must have been legally married to the worker for one year or ten years if divorced. If state law recognizes a legal marriage relationship between individuals, then so does Social Security. There are included in this definition same-sex marriages and common-law marriages which carry many rules and regulations.
If you are eligible for spousal benefits, you will receive a percentage of the worker’s full payment amount (the Primary Insurance Amount or benefit available to worker at Full Retirement Age). Your payment will be computed on the full payment, not on what the retired workers actually receives. Your benefit amount will also be determined by when the worker files for his or her benefit.
If you are at least 66 or at your Full Retirement Age, you will be paid 50% of the worker’s full payment amount. If you are eligible for a benefit on your own and it is less than 50% of the worker’s benefit amount, you could also be eligible for a spousal boost that would take your benefit to that 50% amount. If filing for this benefit after Full Retirement Age, you could also be eligible for a retroactive benefit. Also, if filing at Full Retirement Age and if born before January 2, 1954, you may opt to claim on the spousal payment and delay your own, if you have enough quarters.
Also, if you have a relatively low benefit on your own, and just decide to take it at age 62 because it is available, you could be reducing a potential spousal boost when the worker files for his/her benefit amount.
Yes, there are many rules and exceptions to the above. There are different rules for married vs. divorced. We just do not have the space in this article to get overly technical. But, if you think you might be eligible for this benefit, you need to research your options before filing. Filing without knowledge of your available options, is always a mistake. If you don’t know what questions to ask, how can you determine your options?
Pillars LLC is in the Corinth, MS area but service all 50 states. Roy and Diane are both National Social Security Advisors and Roy is a former CPA of over 40 years. You may contact them at email@example.com, on their website at www.pillarsllc.com or call at 601-954-0699. KNOW before you GO!!