Is a spousal benefit the same as a survivor benefit?


Q. Is a spousal benefit the same as a survivor benefit?
— Trying to learn

A. Social Security benefits can be complicated.

If you are or were married, there are several things to know about possible benefits.

The Social Security spousal benefit can be as much as one half of the primary insurance amount for the working spouse, depending upon what age the spouse collects, said Jody D’Agostini, a certified financial planner with The Falcon Financial Group in Morristown.

If you begin to take benefits before your “full retirement age,” then the spouse will get a reduced monthly benefit, she said.

If you qualify for your own Social Security by working at least 40 quarters/10 years, you should automatically receive the higher benefit, she said.

“There is a loophole that you might want to be aware of for an individual who was previously married and is age 60 or older,” she said. “If their current spouse dies, you are entitled to the first spouse’s benefit, presuming it is higher.”

D’Agostini said you can collect spousal benefits as early as age 62 as long as your spouse is eligible to receive it. If your spouse has not filed to receive their benefit, then you could claim on your benefit, and later switch to the spousal benefit if it is higher, she said.

The Social Security survivor benefit is paid to widow, widowers, and dependents. This was designed to protect young families especially those with children, D’Agostini said.

“You can collect survivor benefits as early as age 60, but your benefit would be reduced,” she said. “If you have a disability, then you can claim survivor benefits as early as age 50.”

You can apply for the survivor benefit first, and switch to your higher retirement benefit at age 62, but by age 70, she said.

“Every year that you delay claiming the benefit increases your eventual benefit by as much as 8%,” she said.

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This story was originally published in June 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.