Social Security Optimization

Making personal savings last

Potential tax-free retirement

How Social Security is calculated

Spousal Benefits vs Survivor Benefits

Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse

WEP & GPO

Spousal Benefits & Survivor Benefits

Spousal benefits are known as an auxiliary benefit and are payable to a spouse if, and only if, the first spouse has filed for and received benefits. Once both spouses have filed for benefits, Social Security formulas provide that if one spouse’s PIA (primary insurance amount) is worth less than half of the other spouse’s PIA, then the spouse with the smaller benefit will receive an increase in monthly benefits via the excess spousal benefit. Assuming both spouses are at full retirement age (FRA), the excess spousal benefit is intended to guarantee that each household with two spouses, where one is fully insured, will receive at least 150% of the higher PIA.

Like many aspects of the Social Security retirement system, spousal benefits and spousal benefit calculations are complicated. There are a number of factors that determine eligibility and benefit calculations. A Social Security planning misstep could cause thousands of dollars in benefits to be inadvertently lost. Seeking the help of a retirement planning professional is a critical element to optimizing Social Security.

Like Spousal Benefits, Survivor Benefits are considered an auxiliary benefit and, as a result, the benefit calculations are very cumbersome and confusing. Unlike spousal benefits, survivor benefits are based upon a half a benefit vs a whole benefit. When and how to take survivor benefits is based on a number of factors including but not limited to…

  • Age of the surviving spouse
  • Age of deceased spouse
  • When/if deceased spouse was actively receiving SS benefits at the time of their death
  • Surviving spouses PIA
  • Deceased spouses PIA
  • Surviving spouses work record and earnings history

Please download our survivor benefits case study to learn more about survivor benefits and the roll retirement income specialists can play in helping you make the best decision possible for you.

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