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What Spouses Should Know About Social Security

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Because we work in the retirement field, we deal with Social Security rules and regulations every day. But for most retirees, Social Security still contains a great deal of mystery. That’s why we’re always happy to suggest helpful resources like this article about Social Security from the financial website Motley Fool (

The article is called “What Spouses Should Know about Social Security,” and it explains in clear language how spousal benefits for Social Security work. These benefits can make a big, big difference in a retiree’s income. As Motley Fool explains, “Depending on the age at which you claim spousal benefits, the amount could be worth a maximum of half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit, so it’s important to know the details of how it works.”

We won’t go into all of those details here. The article explains some of the stipulations, and of course we’re always ready to answer your specific questions, either at one of our LifePlanning Seminars (see below) or during a visit here at our office. But there are a few basics that are helpful to know.

For example, in order to qualify for spousal benefits, you need to be at least 62 years old and your spouse needs to be collecting his or her Social Security benefits. (The only exception to the 62-year-old age threshold involves certain dependent care situations.) If you qualify for spousal benefits, Social Security will first calculate how much of your own earned payment you’re entitled to receive, and then add the difference between your own earned benefit and the spousal benefit. You’ll always receive the higher amount.

How much is the full spousal benefit? It’s one-half of your spouse’s full retirement benefit. For couples where one spouse has earned significantly more than the other, this can make a significant difference in household income, so it’s highly important to your future financial planning.

There’s another important point in the article: taking spousal benefits after you turn 62 but before full retirement age permanently reduces your spousal benefit. In general, the longer you wait to draw Social Security benefits, the better: every year between age 66 and age 70, for instance, benefits rise 8%. But the decision about when to take benefits is a highly personal one, dependent in part on your financial needs and the state of your health, among other considerations. We can review those options with you.

It’s true that planning for retirement can seem confusing, even daunting. Retirees ask, “How can I protect my assets in retirement? What housing choices are best for me? Will I be able to afford health care? Does my family understand my wishes? How do I make sure my legal affairs are in order?” We can help you find answers to these and a host of other pertinent questions. Why not start by attending one of our free LifePlanning Seminars? These information-packed sessions take place at locations throughout the region. Click on the Upcoming Events tab on this website and register for the LifePlanning Seminar of your choice.

At any time if you would like to contact us to discuss Social Security – or any other aspects of retirement – please call for an appointment. It will be a pleasure working with you.

(originally reported at

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