Weekend Reading: The Big Thing Clients Don't Get About Social Security Spousal Benefits

This article appears as part of Casey Weade's Weekend Reading for Retirees series. Every Friday, Casey highlights four hand-picked articles on trending retirement topics and delivers them straight to your email inbox. Get on the list here.
Weekend reading social security spousal benefits Weekend reading social security spousal benefits
Weekend Reading

It’s no secret that Social Security rules and regulations are complex, and spousal benefits aren’t any different. People mistakenly believe they have a choice between claiming their own benefits or their spousal benefits. However, the reality is that spousal benefits are determined through a multi-part calculation and comparison.


How it works: Social Security evaluates 50 percent of the higher-earning spouse's primary insurance amount (PIA) and compares it to the lower-earning spouse's PIA. The lower earner may receive a spousal benefit if they don't qualify for their own benefit, and the amount depends on their work record and PIA.

Further, here are two other common misconceptions:

📌 Belief: Lower-earning spouses receive 50 percent of the higher earner's maximum benefit. In reality, they receive 50 percent of the higher earner's PIA, not their maximum benefit.

📌 Belief: Lower-earning spouses can get their own benefit plus half of their spouse's benefit. In reality, they receive a combined benefit if their own PIA is less than half of their spouse's. If their PIA exceeds 50 percent of their spouse's, they only receive their own benefit.

You have a variety of ways to maximize your (and your spouse’s) Social Security benefits, but don’t think you have to go it alone. Make it a joint effort and partner with a professional who can walk you through your options, so you don’t have any costly missteps.