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Benefits for Spouses
Eligibility requirements and benefit information
When a worker files for retirement benefits, the worker's spouse may be eligible for a benefit based on the worker's earnings. Another requirement is that the spouse must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child in her/his care. By a qualifying child, we mean a child who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits.
The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the worker's "primary insurance amount," depending on the spouse's age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before "normal (or full) retirement age," the spouse will receive a reduced benefit. However, if a spouse is caring for a qualifying child, the spousal benefit is not reduced.
If a spouse is eligible for a retirement benefit based on his or her own earnings, and if that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, then we pay the retirement benefit. Otherwise we pay the spousal benefit.
Compute the effect of early retirement for spouses who do not have a qualifying child in their care
If you enter your date of birth and the effective month for which you would like to begin receiving benefits, we will tell you the effect of early retirement on your spousal benefit as a percentage of the worker's primary insurance amount. (Please note that benefits are generally paid in the month following the effective month.)
A spouse can choose to retire as early as age 62, but doing so may result in a benefit as little as 32.5 percent of the worker's primary insurance amount. A spousal benefit is reduced 25/36 of one percent for each month before normal retirement age, up to 36 months. If the number of months exceeds 36, then the benefit is further reduced 5/12 of one percent per month.
For a spouse who is not entitled to benefits on his or her own earnings record, this reduction factor is applied to the base spousal benefit, which is 50 percent of the worker's primary insurance amount. For example, if the worker's primary insurance amount is $1,600 and the worker's spouse chooses to begin receiving benefits 36 months before his or her normal retirement age, we first take 50 percent of $1,600 to get an $800 base spousal benefit. Then we compute the reduction factor, which is 36 times 25/36 of one percent, or 25 percent. Applying a 25 percent reduction to the $800 amount gives a spousal benefit of $600. Thus, in this case, the final spousal benefit is 37.5 percent of the primary insurance amount.
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Last reviewed or modified September 25, 2013