Social Security: Calculating Social Security benefits on spouse's record

Social Security: Calculating Social Security benefits on spouse's record

August 25th, 2011 by By Martin Coffey in Business Diary

Q: Mrs. C has two questions: "First, I am 60 and retired, and my husband is already receiving Social Security. I am considering taking of my husband's benefit at my 62 and then taking my own full benefit later at 66. How is the calculation computed at my age 62 for receiving of my husband's Social Security? Secondly, if I am retired before 62, am I eligible to start receiving of my living husband's Social Security or are there mitigating circumstances?"

A: First, while your husband is living, you have two options:

If you are under full retirement age and qualify on your own record, you will receive that amount first. Then we will check your spouse's record to see if you are eligible to receive benefits from his record.

To be eligible on his record, your full benefit amount must be less than half of his full benefit amount. If you qualify on his record, we will take half of his full

benefit amount and reduce it a fraction of a percent for each month before your full retirement age.

If your full retirement age is 66, you can get 35 percent of your spouse's full benefit amount at age 62. This 35 percent increases the longer you wait. It can increase up to 50 percent at full retirement age.

If you are full retirement age, you can elect to take benefits on your spouse's record only and continue accruing delayed retirement credits on your own Social Security record up to age 70. You may then file for benefits later and receive a higher monthly benefit based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.

Note: You only have this option if you are full retirement age at the time you file.

In response to your second question, the earliest you can file for retirement benefits on yourself or your spouse's is 62. Remember, if you choose to file at 62 then your benefit will be reduced for age.

Q: "I understand that you need to have limited resources to receive Supplemental Security income. But what is considered a resource?"

A: Resources are things you own that you can use to support yourself. They include cash, real estate, personal belongings, bank accounts, stocks and bonds.

To be eligible for SSI a person must have $2,000 or less in countable resources. A married couple must have $3,000 or less in countable resources. If you own resources over the SSI limit, you may be able to get SSI benefits while trying to sell the resources.

Not all of your resources count toward the SSI resource limit. For example: the home you live in and the land it's on do not count; your personal effects and household goods do not count; life insurance policies may not count, depending on their value; your car usually does not count; burial plots for you and members of your immediate family do not count; up to $1,500 in burial funds for you and up to $1,500 in burial funds for your spouse may not count; and, if you are blind or have a disability, some items may not count if you plan to use them to work or earn extra income.

You may also wish to read information on "resources" in the booklet, "Understanding SSI," at

Submit questions to local Social Security Director Martin Coffey by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN 37401-1447, or by emailing him at