How Does Social Security Benefits Work for Married Couples?

When the time to collect social security benefits is inching closer, married couples can sometimes wonder how social security insurance would work for them. It can be a tricky area, especially if there are two very different income levels, or if someone passes, it’s good to understand how the insurance income from social security works and avoid any hiccups that could prevent collecting on social security retirement benefits. 

Work Benefits for Married Couples

Each married person is entitled to their social security benefits based on their own work record and is available to file for when the age of 62 is reached, though waiting beyond early retirement can increase the amount of the social security benefit. Also, a married couple is eligible to collect benefits up to 50% of their spouse, whichever is greater. This is a great help if one spouse is a much higher earner and is known as a “spousal benefit.”

To be clear, both spouses cannot claim both benefits. The Social Security Administration will give you whichever is higher, but not both. If one spouse qualifies for benefits based on their own earning history, the SSA will use your own work records first, but will then use your spouse’s to give the maximum benefit. 

Calculating Spousal Social Security Benefits

Spousal benefits are calculated based on the primary insurance amount, the amount you’re eligible for at the full retirement age (FRA). Depending on your age when you start paying into social security, you can claim 32.5-50% of your spouse’s benefits. If filing at the FRA, you’ll receive 50% maximum, but early retirement at age 62 will give you 32.5%. 

Waiting past the full retirement age can give you delayed retirement credits, this is 8% more of your social security for each year you wait past the FRA, capped at 70 years old. It’s important to note that you cannot earn delayed retirement credits when taking spousal benefits. Also, if you take spousal benefits it won’t affect the benefits your husband or wife receives. SSI benefits are based only on the primary insurance amount and when they’re claimed. 

Survivor Benefits

Survivor benefits are social security benefits based on the word record of a spouse who has passed away. To qualify, the couple must have been married for at least ten years or have a child that the surviving spouse is caring for, and is younger than 16 or is disabled. This benefit is similar to claiming the benefits of a living spouse, that you’re able to receive the amount if it is higher than your own social security benefit amount at the time when the spouse passed. 

In order to file for survivor benefits, you must wait until your full retirement age in order to receive the full benefits. If you claim social security benefits from a deceased spouse as soon as you are eligible (age 60) you will only receive 71.5% of the benefits. If you remarry before the age of 60, you won’t be able to collect survivor benefits, but remarrying after the eligibility age won’t affect collecting them. 

Threats to Claiming Your Social Security Benefits

There are mistakes and pitfalls that many people make when filing for spousal social security benefits. Many married couples develop a strategy to ensure they get the most out of their benefits, filing at the right time and claiming the higher earner strategically. When filing as a divorced person or survivor benefits, things can become more tricky, which is why we at Marken Law have dedicated our legal expertise to helping people secure their SSI benefits. 

Here at Marken Law Group, we have a comprehensive understanding of social security benefits. We understand how stressful benefits can be and don’t want to add to your plate during this potentially stressful time. We have represented hundreds of claimants in Washington, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, and California to obtain what is rightfully theirs. We focus on your individual needs and bring our extensive experience to help guide you through. 

Getting what you need to live and have what you deserve is too important to leave to chance. Partner with an experienced ally that is by your side from start to finish. Above all though, having qualified social security lawyers to help you through this process to secure your benefits.