Social Security Spousal Benefits
Another Reason to Appreciate Your Spouse
As you move from your 50s into your 60s, you will likely need to make a choice about when to collect Social Security retirement benefits. Many people you know will fall back on the old adage "collect as soon as you can for as long as you can" and grab their benefits at age 62. However, in an age of increasing longevity and disappearing pensions, this may not be the most optimal, or even the most prudent, choice.
Are you entitled to additional Social Security benefits because you are married?
Spousal benefits are additional benefits to which you may be entitled once your spouse has filed for Social Security benefits. Understanding these perks could net you a sizable chunk of incremental income. Whereas your individual benefits are based on your own work history, your spousal benefits are based on your spouse's work history. This means you could be entitled to spousal benefits even if you have never worked, and in fact, spousal benefits were introduced in an era when most women did not have their own Social Security benefits.
The maximum spousal benefits to which any individual could be entitled are equal to 50% of your spouse's Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), the monthly benefit he or she is eligible to receive at Full Retirement Age (FRA). However, the amount you actually collect will be lower if you collect before your FRA. There are two main ways to collect spousal benefits:
A few things to keep in mind:
- You cannot collect spousal benefits until your spouse files for benefits.
- Spousal benefits do not grow after FRA.
- Both spouses cannot collect spousal benefits at the same time.
1. As your only benefits.
If you are not entitled to your own individual benefits, you can choose to collect spousal benefits as early as age 62 (although they will be reduced to 35% of your spouse's PIA for those with a FRA of 66). If you start collecting at FRA or later, they will be equal to 50% of your spouse's PIA.
Example: Robert and Rachel are married. Robert has a PIA of $2,000. Rachel never worked and is not eligible for her own Social Security benefits. Rachel could collect spousal benefits of $1,000 per month at her FRA. If she collected those benefits at age 62, she would get $700 instead of the full $1,000 (assuming she had a FRA of 66).
If you are entitled to individual benefits (but have not filed for them) and are at least FRA, you can choose to collect "spouse only" benefits, which are equal to 50% of your spouse's PIA. You can choose to switch to your own benefits at a later date if they become higher than your spousal benefits.
Example: Bob and Barbara are married. Bob has a PIA of $2,000. Barbara has a PIA of $900. Barbara could collect spousal benefits of $1,000 per month at her FRA. When she hits age 70, she could file for and switch to her own benefits of $1,188 (132% x $900, assuming she had a FRA of 66).
2. As an incremental increase to your individual benefits.
If your spouse's PIA is more than twice as high as your PIA, you are likely eligible for spousal benefits in addition to your own benefits. These spousal benefits will be "adjusted" for your own benefits, as illustrated in the example below.
- Age 66: Jane collects her own benefits of $600. She also collects $500 of spousal benefits. Together they equal the maximum spousal benefit amount of $1,100 ($2,200 x 50%).
- Age 62: Jane's own benefits of $600 are reduced by 25% to $450 for collecting them early. Similarly, the $500 of spousal benefits she was eligible for at age 66 is reduced by 30% to $350. Together, her benefits total $800.
- Age 70: Jane's own benefits of $600 have grown by 32% to $792. She can also collect $308 of spousal benefits. Together they equal the maximum spousal benefit amount of $1,100 ($2,200 x 50%).
This material is provided for educational purposes only and does not constitute investment advice. The information contained herein is based on current tax laws, which may change in the future. BlackRock cannot be held responsible for any direct or incidental loss resulting from applying any of the information provided herein or from any other source mentioned. The information provided in these materials does not constitute any legal, tax or accounting advice. Please consult with a qualified professional for this type of advice.
Prepared by BlackRock Investments, LLC, member FINRA.