For many senior couples, spousal benefits are an excellent tool, allowing one spouse to help the other receive a greater benefit than they would have on their own. But when one benefit is reliant on another, how can we make it better? Luckily, MarketWatch’s Jim Blankenship offers clarity, answering specific questions we have about how to better spousal benefits.
Benefits for spouses’ factor in the higher Social Security benefit between the two people. Both people receive a benefit based on the higher earner’s benefit. The spouse’s benefit is up to 50 percent of the higher earner’s benefit.
However, the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) new rules have instituted “deemed filing.” That means that if you’re eligible for both Social Security and spousal benefits, you must file for both at the same time. This can still increase your overall benefit, depending on your situation.
For example, Mike and Jill are married. Mike is 67, retired, and on benefits. Jill is retiring and claiming benefits. Both have an earning history. If Jill were to claim spousal benefits, she would also have to claim her Social Security. It looks something like this:
Jill’s overall benefit = (50 percent of Mike’s Social Security Benefit – Jill’s Social Security Benefit) + Jill’s Social Security Benefit
If Jill’s benefit equals a negative number when subtracted from Mike’s benefit, she can only claim her own benefit.
Things can get confusing, as spousal benefits don’t increase after you reach full retirement age. A spouse is entitled to the “Primary Insurance Amount” (PRI). The PRI is the amount the higher earner would receive at their full retirement age, regardless of whether they claimed Social Security at that age. Waiting until you reach full retirement age yourself is the easiest way to max out your spousal benefits and claim the whole PRI.
The Council for Retirement Security dedicates itself to protecting the Social Security Trust. Join in the Council’s fight and protect yours and your spouse’s benefits today.