Here's How Your Marital Status Affects Your Social Security Benefits

If you've worked at least 10 full years, you'll likely be eligible for Social Security retirement benefits when you turn 62. Single adults can only claim benefits based on their own work record, but for people who are married, widowed or divorced, things get a little more messy.

If you fall into one of these latter categories, you still have the option to claim benefits based on your own work history, but you may also be entitled to benefits based on your spouse's (or ex-spouse's) work record. The options for each of these groups are explained in detail below.[A white wedding cake]


How does Social Security work for married couples?

Married couples are entitled to the higher of their own Social Security benefit or half of their spouse's benefit if they wait until full retirement age (FRA) to file.

You don't need to qualify for Social Security on your own to take spousal benefits. Even if you've never worked a day in your life, you'll still be eligible so long as your spouse has worked at least 10 years. However, you cannot claim spousal benefits until your spouse also begins claiming their Social Security benefits.

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