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Social Security

Understanding spouse’s benefits


Vonda Van Til

Social Security Public Affairs Specialist

Marriage is a tradition that exists on every continent and in nearly every country. Having a partner not only means creating a family unit, it means sharing things like a home and other property. Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. When you’re planning for your retirement, here are a few things to remember:

If you’re married, your spouse could be eligible for up to 50 percent of your full retirement age amount, if your spouse is full retirement age when he or she takes it. If your spouse also qualifies for a benefit on his or her own work history, we always pay the spouse’s own benefit first and then look into additional spouse’s benefits.

A spouse’s own full retirement amount must be less than half of your full retirement amount in order for them to file on your record. In addition, a spouse cannot receive spouse’s benefits until you, the worker, also file (except for divorced spouses).

Also, keep in mind that if you file for a reduced retirement benefit and pass away first, the survivor benefit will also be reduced. 

Knowing how your finances affect your spouse’s benefit can help both of you avoid future impacts on your incomes. We have decades of experience, and the information to go with it. Access a wealth of useful information and use our benefits planners at

Vonda Van Til is the public affairs specialist for West Michigan. You may write her c/o Social Security Administration, 3045 Knapp NE, Grand Rapids MI 49525 or via email to





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