Social Security Benefits for Others Based on Your Earnings

By Jennifer Scherf

Spouse’s benefits

Any current spouse is eligible for Social Security benefits, and divorced or former spouses are eligible generally if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. This spousal retirement benefit is half the payment amount the worker would receive, and is different from the spousal survivor benefit, which is the full payment amount. There is no increase for starting spousal benefits after normal retirement age, but the payment amount is decreased if taken early, just as retirement benefits are reduced if taken early (i.e., retirement as early as age 62). Only after the worker applies for retirement benefits may the nonworking spouse apply for spousal retirement benefits.

The spouse and children of a worker who has reached normal retirement age can receive benefits on the worker’s record whether the worker is receiving benefits or not. Thus, a worker can delay retirement without affecting spousal and children’s benefits.

Widow(er)’s benefits

If a worker covered by Social Security dies, a surviving spouse can receive survivors’ benefits. In some instances, survivors’ benefits are available even to a divorced spouse.* The earliest age for a nondisabled widow(er)’s benefit is age 60. The benefit is equal to the worker’s full retirement benefit for spouses who are at, or older than, normal retirement age. If the surviving spouse starts benefits before normal retirement age, there is a reduction, just as there is if you take early retirement. If the worker earned delayed-retirement credits by waiting to start benefits after their normal retirement age, the surviving spouse will have those credits applied to their benefit.

Children’s benefits

Children of a retired, disabled or deceased worker receive benefits as a “dependent” or “survivor” if they are under the age of 18, or between 18 and 19 and have not yet graduated from high school, or are over the age of 18 and were determined to be disabled before they reached the age of 22.

* Additional information can be found on our website or by calling the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.

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