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Spousal Benefits vs 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 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, specifically, spousal benefit calculations are complicated. There are a number of factors that go into determining eligibility and benefit calculations. A Social Security planning misstep could cause thousands 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