The Spousal Retirement Benefit offered by Social Security is a little known and poorly advertised gender-neutral benefit, which is available to any person who is 62 years old and whose spouse has filed for his or her retirement benefits. The benefit to the spouse is based on the retiring/retired worker’s earnings. The spousal benefit can be as much as half of the retiring worker’s primary insurance amount, depending on the spouse’s age at retirement. If the spouse begins receiving benefits before his or her full retirement age, the spouse will receive a reduced benefit.

If the spouse intending on collecting this spousal benefit has not reached his or her full retirement age yet, this claim will be deemed to be for all benefits available to the claimant. It will also be seen as a request for the spouse’s own retirement, as well as the spousal benefit. If the spouse’s benefit is greater than the retiring or retired worker’s benefit, the spouse cannot receive a spousal benefit.

Still confused, or not sure how you qualify? Here are some examples:

Linda is 66 and she is still working and contributing to her own Social Security retirement benefits. Linda’s husband, Harry, is 72 and is receiving $1,500 per month from Social Security as his full retirement benefit. Linda qualifies for roughly half of Harry’s benefit per month, but Harry’s benefit is not decreased by Linda’s claim. Together, they would receive approximately $2,250 per month from Social Security – Harry would continue to receive his $1,500 per month, and Linda would receive approximately $750 per month. In addition, Linda’s social security benefit would continue to grow, as she is still working, and would earn 8% interest up until age 70.

If, however, Linda is 62 years old, and applies for the spousal benefit, she is applying for all benefits available to her, including her own retirement benefits. If her retirement benefit, at age 62, is $ 1,000 per month, she will not receive any spousal benefit. If her retirement benefit, at age 62, is $650 per month, she would receive $100 per month as a spousal benefit, making her total benefit $750 per month.

The spousal benefit is also available to unmarried former spouses, i.e. divorced couples, who are at least 62 years of age, and as long as their marriage lasted for 10 years and the former spouse has filed for his or her Social Security retirement benefits.

The Social Security website offers a way for you to compute your spousal benefit, both before your full retirement age and after your full retirement age. Once you are on the Social Security website, just search for benefits for spouses.

If you have any questions about retirement benefits or social security, it is recommended that you speak with experienced legal counsel to discuss your situation.