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Social Security Retirement, Spousal, and Survivor Benefits


The Social Security Retirement benefit is a replacement for a portion of income once an individual stops working or reduces the hours that are worked. To be eligible for Social Security Retirement benefits, an individual must be age 62 or older and have worked and paid Social Security taxes for 10 or more years.

Social Security Retirement benefits vary from person to person because benefit amounts are calculated on previous work history for each individual. Individuals pay into Social Security during the earning years through payroll withholding taxes or self-employment taxes. Delaying receiving Social Security Retirement benefits until full retirement age results in higher benefits, whereas drawing benefits prior to full retirement age results in a lower benefit amount. Deciding when to apply for Social Security Retirement benefits is dependent on several factors. These include working status, marital status, health status, and financial status. Each factor is unique to each individual. As such, deciding when to apply for and draw Social Security Retirement benefits requires planning and consideration of these factors.

Social Security Credits and Spousal Benefits

For individuals that do not have enough Social Security credits to be eligible on their own to draw Social Security Retirement benefits, the spousal benefit may be an option. To apply for spousal benefits, one must either be 62 years or older, or have a child under the age of 16, or a have a child that is entitled to receive disability benefits on the spouse’s record. Full spousal benefits are equal to one-half of the amount the spouse is entitled to receive.

For individuals that do have enough Social Security credits to draw benefits from their own record, this amount will be paid first. In the event spousal benefits are greater than the recipient’s retirement benefit, a combination of benefits equal to the spouse’s higher benefit will be paid. Starting spousal benefits prior to full retirement age will result in permanently reduced payments.

Benefits can be collected on a spouse’s work record regardless of whether the recipient also worked. However, the spouse must already be collecting retirement benefits, the recipient must have been married for at least one year, and the recipient must be at least 62 years of age, or caring for a child who is under age 16, or who has a disability.

Survivor Benefits

Recipients may be entitled to Social Security survivor benefits in the event of a spouse’s death. The surviving spouse, children, and parents could be eligible based on the spouse’s earnings and the particular situation. The earliest a surviving spouse can start receiving benefits is between age 60 and full retirement age. Unmarried children younger than 18, full-time students between 18 and 19, and children older than 18 with a disability that began before age 22 are also eligible to draw survivor benefits. Dependent parents-those at least age 62, that receive at least one-half of their support from the deceased, and are not otherwise entitled to a Social Security retirement benefit equal to or exceeding the new benefit from the decedent-may also be entitled to receive survivor benefits.

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This article contains general information only. Sunflower Bank is not, by means of this article, rendering accounting, financial, investment, legal, tax, or other professional advice or services. This article is not a substitute for such professional advice or services, before making any decisions related to these matters, you should consult a qualified professional advisor.