Many retirees depend on the financial benefits they receive each month from the Social Security retirement system. What happens, however, if you were a stay-at-home parent for your entire life? Are you entitled to Social Security retirement benefits? The Long Island attorneys at Eghrari Wealth Training Firm explain when you are entitled to Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work history.
Work Credits in the Social Security System
During your working years, you accumulate credits that are based on your earnings that will qualify you for Social Security retirement benefits after you reach retirement age. The amount you need to earn to accumulate one credit has increased over the years to keep up with inflation. For 2023, you get one credit for every $1,640 you earn, up to four credits per year. Anyone born after 1929 needs 40 credits to receive Social Security retirement benefits, meaning that most people alive today must have worked at least ten years over the course of their lifetime to be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits.
Social Security Benefits Based on Your Spouse
Even if you never contributed to Social Security, you may be eligible for benefits if you are at least 62 years of age, and your spouse is or was receiving retirement or disability benefits. If you are eligible for Social Security benefits based on your own work record, benefits will be paid to you based on that record first. If your spouse’s benefits are more than your own benefit amount, you are entitled to an additional amount so that the combination of benefits is equal to the higher amount.
If you were born before January 2, 1954, and have already reached full retirement age, you can choose to receive only your spouse’s benefit and delay receiving your own retirement benefit until a later date. The option to delay taking your own benefits is no longer available for anyone born after January 2, 1954.
You may even be eligible for benefits based on the work record of an ex-spouse if:
- Your marriage lasted 10 years or longer.
- You are unmarried.
- You are age 62 or older.
- The benefit that you are entitled to receive based on your own work history is less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work.
- Your ex-spouse is entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits.
Social Security Survivor Benefits
Although a worker must typically have 40 work credits to qualify for Social Security benefits, some surviving family members can get benefits if the worker has credit for one and one-half years of work (six credits) in the three years just before their death. The following surviving family members may be entitled to benefits based on the work record of a decedent:
- A widow or widower age 60 or older (age 50 or older if they have a disability).
- A surviving divorced spouse, under certain circumstances.
- A widow or widower at any age who is caring for the deceased’s child who is under age 16 or has a disability and receiving child’s benefits.
- An unmarried child of the deceased who is one of the following:
- Younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they are a full-time student in an elementary or secondary school).
- Age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22.
How Much Will I Receive in Social Security Benefits?
The amount you will receive in Social Security benefits based on the benefits of a deceased spouse will vary but general guidelines include:
- A widow or widower at full retirement age or older receives 100 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
- A widow or widower from age 60 to full retirement age receives 71½ to 99 percent of the deceased worker’s basic amount.
- A widow or widower with a disability who is aged 50 through 59 receives 71½ percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
- A widow or widower of any age who is caring for a child under age 16 receives 75 percent of the deceased worker’s benefit amount.
Do You Have Questions about Social Security Retirement Benefits?
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about Social Security or other elder law issues, contact the Long Island elder law attorneys at Eghrari Wealth Training Firm by calling us at 631-265-0599 to schedule your appointment.