If both you and your spouse started getting your Social Security benefits at your Full Retirement Age (FRA), the lower wage earning spouse should be getting at least one-half the Social Security benefits as the higher wage earning spouse. Even if you didn’t wait until your FRA to start receiving your Social Security but are currently at or older than your FRA, you may be entitled to at least half the Social Security benefits of your spouse, depending upon the age each of you started receiving benefit. In order to do this, you must file for Spousal Benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA). If you are married at the time you file for Social Security benefits, the SSA will assume you are filing for the greater of your own benefits or your spousal benefits at the time you are filing. However, your circumstances may have changed since you filed for Social Security. For example, at the time you filed, your spouse may not have already filed for benefits making you not eligible for spousal benefits. Or, you may have been unmarried at the time you filed for benefits and now are married. Whatever your situation, if you are not getting close to one-half the benefits your spouse receives, it’s worth contacting the SSA to see if you are eligible for spousal benefits that may increase your current monthly benefit.
Let me share with you a real life story of how one client’s Social Security benefits improved after we urged them to contact the SSA. The husband was receiving $2,000 per month in Social Security benefits. The wife had been on Social Security disability since approximately age 50 and was receiving $300 per month; her current age is 66. We encouraged the couple to contact the Social Security Administration to see about increasing the wife’s benefit to a Social Security Spousal Benefit of one-half the husband’s benefit. As a result, the wife’s Social Security benefit increased by $700 per month AND she received a lump sum check of $16,800 for 24-months of back benefits. Note this applies to benefits based on your ex-spouse’s earnings history as well, as long as you were married for at least 10 years to your ex and you currently are not married, or you got remarried after age 60. It’s worth the time and effort to call, or better yet, visit your local SS office to see if you can increase your monthly benefit by claiming Spousal Benefits.