SSocial Security retirement benefits are often referred to as “vested benefits”. This is because you pay payroll taxes that fund social security and earn work credits that entitle you to that retirement income. The amount you receive is also based on the average salary over your career.
But what about people who have never had a job outside of the home? Can they still get Social Security benefits even if they haven’t received a paycheck? The answer might surprise you.
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Working is not a prerequisite for obtaining Social Security retirement benefits
To qualify for social security on the basis of your own work history, you must have accumulated 40 work credits. You can earn up to four credits per year. You must therefore earn money at work for at least 10 years to be eligible for benefits based on your work record.
But it’s important to understand that you don’t necessarily have to claim benefits based on your own professionnal career. If you are married or were married, it is possible to become eligible based on a spouse’s income history. And that’s great news for those who have built careers at home rather than in the professional world, because it means they can still be rewarded for their efforts with retirement benefits.
The two spouses and survivor benefits are available based on a spouse’s work history – and you don’t have to have worked a single day in your life to get them. Spousal benefits can be up to 50% of the worker’s standard benefit (the amount your spouse would receive at full retirement age (FRA)). And survivor benefits could be equal to 100% of the benefits your deceased spouse was receiving or would have been entitled to at full retirement age.
This means that you could get hundreds or even thousands of dollars in Social Security income to support you in your later years, even if you didn’t earn your own paycheck.
Who is entitled to spousal and survivor benefits?
If you are currently married and have reached the age of 62, you should be eligible for spousal benefits. However, your spouse will need to have already claimed their own Social Security check before they can get yours. If you do not wait until your full retirement age (between 66 and 2 months and 67), your spousal benefits will be reduced.
If you are divorced but have been married for at least 10 years, you can still apply for spousal benefits on your ex’s record as long as you have not remarried. In this case, as long as you’ve been divorced for at least two years, you can start receiving your checks once you turn 62, whether or not your ex has started collecting their own benefits.
Survivor benefits are also available if your spouse dies while you are married or if you are divorced but your marriage lasted at least 10 years and you have not remarried before age 60. Survivor benefits are available as soon as you turn 60 (or 50 in the event of a disability), although you may receive benefits earlier if you are caring for single or disabled children that you shared with the deceased. .
It is important to understand exactly how these benefits work and when you are entitled to them so that you can get the money you deserve from the Social Security Administration. Make sure you know the rules if you’ve never worked, or if your current or former spouse has earned more than you. Either way, a claim on your spouse’s employment record could earn you more money as a retiree.
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