My wife doesn’t have Social Security. How can she get my benefit?


Q. My wife worked but did not work long enough to accumulate enough time to retire with her own Social Security. I know as a stay-at-home mom, she can collect 50% of my Social Security amount. Is this correct? If I receive $2,500 dollars a month, my wife would get $1,250. Together, would we get $3,750?
— Husband

A. You are correct about the benefits.

But let’s be clear about this: Your wife being a stay-at-home mom has nothing to do with it.

To collect spousal benefits, she must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child in her care to receive benefits, said Matt Rembish, a certified financial planner with OneDigital in Boonton.

If she starts her benefit before her full retirement age, she will receive a reduced benefit, he said.

“When spouses do have their own benefit and a spousal benefit, generally they will get a combination of both that equals the higher amount,” he said, offering this example.

Let’s say someone qualifies for a retirement benefit of $1,500 a month but as a spouse, they qualify for a spousal benefit of $1,800 a month. Social Security will give $1,500 a month from their own retirement benefit and $300 a month from the spousal benefit for a total of $1,800 a month.

Rembish said if one spouse dies, the surviving spouse will receive the higher of the two benefits.

“Because of this a common strategy is to have one spouse take their benefit at age 70,” he said. “Each year you wait after full retirement age you will receive an 8% increase to your benefit. Your benefit maxes out at age 70, so there is no reason to wait longer than that.”

Social Security is an incredibly important part of someone’s retirement portfolio, he said.

“This is usually the starting point where pre-retirees figure out what gap their other retirement savings need to fill to replace their income,” he said. “The strategy you decide on can make a huge difference.”

Social Security offers some free tools on its website to help you figure out the best strategy for you and your wife.

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This story was originally published in April 2024. 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.