How will my spouse be affected by my retirement?

When choosing a retirement date, it’s important to consider the financial impact it’ll have on your family. Timing is incredibly important when it comes to Social Security. This is because the age at which you begin collecting has a lot of implications. The age at which you retire will not only determine how much you’ll receive for the rest of your life; it will also impact how much your spouse can receive via spousal or survivor benefits.

How will my spouse be affected by my retirement?

If you’ve been married for 2 years or more, then you and your spouse are entitled to spousal benefits. Typically, you’ll receive 50% of what your spouse is entitled to at their normal retirement age if that amount is higher than what you are entitled to through your own individual benefit. As an example, let’s say that you are entitled to $2,000 a month based on your work history. Let’s also assume that your spouse is entitled to $800 a month based on their work history. In this case, you will collect $2,000. However, rather than collecting their own benefit, your spouse will collect $1,000 (i.e. 50% of your amount).  

The moment you file for spousal benefits, your spouse is required to start collecting their benefits as well. This means that regardless of your spouse’s age, your spouse will stop earning credits on their social security benefit.  For example, if you start collecting spousal benefits when your spouse is 62, you would lock your spouse’s benefit at their minimum monthly amount. For this reason, it could be worthwhile to wait to begin collecting spousal benefits.

Keep in mind that a similar penalty applies to your spousal benefits. While you can start collecting spousal benefits as early as age 62, you’ll face a penalty on your benefit. You’ll only collect the full 50% of spousal benefits once you reach your Full Retirement Age. This is age 67 for anybody born in 1960 or after.   

Read our primer on Social Security or use our Social Security Calculator to learn more about how timing can affect your (and your spouse’s) social security benefits.  

Survivor Benefits  

Many rest easier knowing that their loved ones will be taken care of if they were no longer around. This concern is particularly pressing among people who have been primary breadwinners in their families. Waiting longer to begin collecting is a wise choice if you have concerns about the financial well being of your spouse in the event of your passing.  If you choose to start collecting your benefits early and made more money than your spouse, then your spouse will get less money in survivor benefits if you pass away first. For example, let’s assume you are collecting $2,000 a month. In the event of your passing, your spouse will be entitled to that full $2,000 at their Full Retirement Age. However, if you begin collecting early, your spouse will be entitled to a lower amount. 

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Read our quick-start guide for help, including which questions you should be asking as you approach retirement.

Read our quick start guide

Group Created with Sketch.
Not sure where to start?

Read our quick-start guide for help, including which questions you should be asking as you approach retirement.

Read our quick start guide