Not All Spousal Benefits To Wife Or Husband Are Based On Age

Q: I plan to start Social Security retirement next January, including benefits for our 17-year-old son who is in high school. Can my wife receive Social Security on my record then because our son will? She is in her 50’s and working.

A: Because your son is age 17 and not younger, the answer is no in this case but the question illustrates a Social Security spousal benefit that many are not aware of.

Most people only think of benefits to a spouse who is at least old enough for reduced benefits at age 62 but there is another, usually payable to younger wives or husbands.

Monthly benefits to your spouse, of any age, are possible when a child under age 16 or disabled receives Social Security through your work record. These spousal benefits are possible because there is an eligible child in their care. Since they are not based on age of wife or husband, these spousal benefits are not reduced for young age.

If payable, the spouse could receive benefits until the child reaches age 16, longer if the child is disabled. At age 16, the child’s benefits continue but benefits to the wife or husband stop. If old enough, she or he could then start retirement or other benefits.

Receiving benefits as a young spouse will not reduce any future spousal benefits based on age.

Especially when working, some wives or husbands that are eligible for this young spouse benefit choose not to take it because the annual earnings limit applies and can reduce amounts payable. In addition, depending on the number of children eligible, it might reduce amounts paid to the children.

More about Social Security retirement benefits, including family members, is at the Retirement Planner website section, www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/, and in the SSA publication “Retirement Benefits” at www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10035.pdf.