07 Oct My wife has never worked. Can she file for Social Security?
Q. My wife has never worked. Can she file for Social Security?
A. The short answer is yes.
Social Security benefits are based on the amount of income you earned during your working life.
However, a non-working spouse who has never paid into social security can still collect benefits under current law thanks to the spousal benefits option, said Matthew DeFelice, a certified financial planner with U.S. Financial Services in Fairfield.
He said once the non-working spouse hits age 62, they are eligible to receive benefits as long as the working spouse is currently receiving either retirement or disability benefits from Social Security.
The non-working spouse can collect up to one-half of the working spouse’s benefits regardless of the fact that they never contributed on their own, DeFelice said.
“These payments will not decrease the working spouse’s retirement benefits,” he said. “In fact, the value of the combined benefits your wife may receive, when added to your own, may help you decide if taking your benefits sooner may be more advantageous.”
Like standard Social Security benefits, spousal benefits do suffer from an early-retirement penalty.
If your wife starts taking the benefits as soon as she turns 62, her benefit checks will be permanently reduced by a percentage based on the number of months until her full retirement age, he said. If she waits until her full retirement age, her benefit cannot exceed one-half of your full retirement amount.
“Full Retirement Age” is calculated based on your birth date; if you were born after 1959, it’s age 67.
Claiming spousal benefits can be done through the same application process as claiming standard Social Security benefits, DeFelice said.
“In fact, if you apply for Social Security benefits at the same time as your spouse, or if your spouse is already receiving benefits when you apply, the Social Security Administration will automatically check to see if you are eligible for spousal benefits and will sign you up if you are,” he said.
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This story was originally published Oct. 7, 2019.
NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.