Social Security Spousal Benefits
written by Mike Ballew May 7, 2023

There are many advantages to being married, one of which is the Social Security Spousal Benefit. It enables you to receive the greater of your benefit or an amount equal to half of your spouse’s benefit. No one is complaining, but why would Social Security do that? 

Social Security Spousal Benefit Origins

Social Security Spousal Benefits were added in 1939 to provide compensation for stay-at-home moms. In a world where many of our leaders today can’t define what a man or a woman is, that may sound incredibly out-of-touch or sexist, but it was a different era. Social Security recognized that women who stay home to raise children were entitled to compensation just like their working husbands.

In 1983 Social Security was ammended again to be more inclusive. It extended Social Security Spousal Benefits to husbands who stay home instead of their wives. Today the policy is fairly simple. Any legally-married person may receive the greater of their benefit or half of their spouse’s benefit.

Rules and Regulations

Of course with Social Security there are always rules and regulations. First off, what form must you fill out to qualify for this program? None, actually. When you begin drawing Social Security you automatically receive the greater of your benefit or half of your spouse’s benefit.

In order to receive half of your spouse’s benefit your spouse must be drawing Social Security benefits. Social Security Spousal Benefits do not kick in until your spouse begins drawing Social Security.

Most of the eligibility and age-related rules for your own Social Security benefits also apply to spousal benefits. You cannot begin receiving Social Security Spousal Benefits until you are at least 62 years of age, and you must begin drawing Social Security Spousal Benefits by at least age 70.

As explained in When should I begin taking Social Security? everyone has what the Social Security Administration refers to as your Full Retirement Age, which for most people is 67. Just like with your own benefits, if you begin drawing Social Security Spousal Benefits prior to Full Retirement Age your benefits are permanently decreased. However, there is one change from your own Social Security benefits: if you elect to begin taking Social Security Spousal Benefits after Full Retirement Age you are not rewarded with permanently-increased benefits.

You must be married for at least one year to qualify for Social Security Spousal Benefits. However, if you are the parent of your spouse’s child the one-year rule is waived. If you are divorced you can receive Social Security Spousal Benefits, but only if you were married at least 10 years and you have not remarried.


When there are huge discrepancies between one spouse’s earnings and the other, the Social Security Spousal Benefit can come as a pleasant surprise. To some this might seem unfair; i.e., the rich getting richer. Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Social Security is not a government handout, you pay into it over the course of your entire working life. It’s your money. Your Social Security is funded by your OASDI payroll tax withholdings. The Social Security Administration is keeping track of how much money you’ve paid into the program, and your benefits are directly tied to that amount.

Photo credit: Pixabay The Eggstack Blog will never post an article influenced by an outside company or advertiser. Our mission is to help you overcome uncertainty about retirement planning and inspire confidence in your financial future.
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