Family Benefits of Social Security - Adviser Investments

Family Benefits of Social Security

October 28, 2019

In a previous post, we discussed the basics of Social Security. Today, we’ll dive into some other features of the Social Security program to include in your financial planning: Spousal benefits, child benefits and survivor benefits.

Benefits for Spouses

Under the Social Security system, one half of a married couple can opt to file for “spousal benefits” instead of filing based on their own work history. For couples where one spouse was the primary breadwinner while the other spent many of their prime working years at home raising their children or otherwise out of the workforce, filing for spousal benefits can make more financial sense than filing individually.

Spousal benefits entitle one partner to receive an amount equivalent to 50% of their spouse’s monthly payment at their full retirement age (FRA; 66 to 67, depending on their year of birth). As with regular benefits, spousal benefits will be reduced by 8% each year if you file early. However, unlike traditional benefits, the spousal version will never grow beyond 50% of the primary breadwinner’s FRA payment, even if you wait until age 70 to file.

Benefits for Children

If you’re considering filing for Social Security but still have minor children, they may be entitled to their own benefits once you file. To be eligible, the child must be either:

  • Under age 18
  • Under age 19 and a full-time elementary or high school student
  • Age 18 or older and have a disability that began before age 22

These are potentially significant benefits—we advise you to consider taking advantage of them if you can or keep them in mind if your circumstances change and you become eligible.

Benefits for Survivors

If one partner in a couple is entitled to a higher Social Security benefit than their partner and they pass away, the surviving spouse can choose to receive survivor benefits instead of the benefit they could claim based on their own work history.

The widow or widower is eligible for survivor benefits as long as the couple had been married for at least nine months at the time of their partner’s death. (If the surviving spouse is already receiving the spousal benefits mentioned above, they will automatically switch to survivor benefits once the Social Security Administration is notified of the death.)

One important thing to note: If the partner passes away and the widow or widower remarries before they turn 60, they are not eligible to receive survivor benefits based on their first spouse’s income.

Social Security analysis varies from person to person and family to family. If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact us to receive a personalized breakdown.

Social Security analysis varies from person to person and family to family. If you have questions about your specific situation, please contact us to receive a personalized breakdown. We’re happy to help.


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