Defining Spousal Social Security

When Neither Spouse has Claimed their Benefit

When the Lower Earning Spouse Plans to Claim their Own Benefit Prior to FRA

When the Lower Earning Spouse Plans to Claim their Own Benefit at FRA

When One Spouse Has No Work History

When One Spouse has Already Claimed their Benefit

Deemed Filing Rule

Where Can I View my Social Security Benefits?


Defining Spousal Social Security

In a married couple, the Social Security benefits are rarely equal. That is, one spouse’s benefit will typically be higher than the other. When the lower earning spouse's benefit is less than 50% of the higher earning spouse's benefit, the lower earning spouse may receive 50% of the higher earning spouse's benefit or their own benefit, whichever is higher. Keep in mind that the higher earning spouse must claim their own benefit before the spousal benefit is available.

The Planner automatically model spousal benefits:

  • If the lower earning spouse is currently below 70 years of age

  • If the higher-earning spouse's benefit at FRA is at least double the lower-earning spouse's benefit (on their own work history) at their FRA

  • The Planner will model or switch to the spousal benefit on the date the higher earning spouse claims their own benefit

  • A reduction in spousal benefits will be applied if the lower earning spouse claims their own benefit prior to reaching their FRA


When Neither Spouse has Claimed their Benefit

The Planner will automatically apply the spousal benefit on the date the higher earning spouse claims their benefit when it is advantageous to the couple.

To model this strategy, you do not need to make any adjustments. Simply enter the lower earning spouse's benefit at Full Retirement Age as reported by the SSA and the Planner will calculate and apply the appropriate amount.


When the Lower Earning Spouse Plans to Claim their Own Benefit Prior to their Full Retirement Age and switch to the Spousal Benefit

Depending on the age of each spouse, some couples find that it is advantageous for the lower earning spouse to claim an individual benefit prior to their FRA, and change to the spousal benefit when the higher earner claims.

The amount the lower earning spouse will receive as a spousal benefit when the higher earning spouse claims their benefit is often less than 50% of the higher earner's FRA benefit as a result of claiming early. We recommend you verify this information by looking up your benefit information on the Social Security Administration website, www.ssa.gov or calling the SSA.

The Planner will automatically apply the spousal benefit on the date the higher earning spouse claims their benefit when it is advantageous to do so.

To model this strategy, you do not need to make any adjustments. Simply enter the lower earning spouse's benefit at Full Retirement Age as reported by the SSA and the Planner will calculate and apply the appropriate amount.


When the Lower Earning Spouse Plans to Claim their Own Benefit at Full Retirement Age and switch to the Spousal Benefit

Depending on the age of each spouse, some couples find that it is advantageous for the lower earning spouse to claim an individual benefit at their FRA, and change to the spousal benefit at when the higher earner claims.

The amount the lower earning spouse will receive as a spousal benefit when the higher earning spouse claims their benefit will be 50% of the higher earner's FRA benefit. We recommend you verify this information by looking up your benefit information on the Social Security Administration website, www.ssa.gov or calling the SSA.

The Planner will automatically apply the spousal benefit on the date the higher earning spouse claims their benefit when it is advantageous.

To model this strategy, you do not need to make any adjustments. Simply enter the lower earning spouse's benefit at Full Retirement Age as reported by the SSA and the Planner will calculate and apply the appropriate amount.


When One Spouse Has No Work History

In the case that the lower-earning spouse has no work history and is not entitled to a Social Security benefit on their own work history but can claim spousal benefits, the lower-earning spouse's Social Security selection must be set in the future and cannot be set to "will not claim" as this will stop all Social Security benefits from being modeled for the lower-earning spouse. A value of $1 should be entered for their benefit at FRA and the claiming date should be the same as the higher earner.

This will model them as not collecting benefits until spousal benefits kick in.


When One Spouse has Already Claimed their Benefit

Please reach out to the Service Desk for support. We can provide guidance on modeling your Social Security benefits based on your personal situation.


Where Can I view my Social Security Benefits?

See the Milestones Report for a narrative of your Social Security benefit and other important plan events.

You can view the combined benefits on your Lifetime Income Projection Chart by hovering over the Social Security benefits after both spouse's claiming ages. You can also view the combined benefits on your Insights > Income and Expenses > Estimated Income, Drawdowns, and Debt Chart. You may want to change the Social Security COLA to 0% and view the amounts without inflation. Please remember to change the COLA back after this experiment.


PRO TIP: If you would like to view the exact annual or monthly amounts the Planner is projecting for Spousal Social Security in your Plan, follow these steps:

  1. Set your Social Security COLA to zero

  2. Hover over the Lifetime Income Projection Chart until the 1st full year that both spouses will receive Social Security benefits

  3. The total should be the annual amount of the higher earner’s benefit plus 50% of the higher earner’s FRA Benefit as the spousal benefit

  4. Subtract out the higher earner's benefit, the remainder is the spousal benefit

  5. If the lower earning spouse claimed prior to their own Full Retirement Age, they will receive less than 50% of the higher earner’s FRA Benefit, so the total will be the higher earner’s benefit plus 32.5% - 50% of the higher earner’s FRA Benefit

  6. Please remember to change the COLA back after this experiment!


Deemed Filing Rule

Keep in mind that you may be subject to the “deemed” filing rule. This rule states that if the higher earning spouse is already receiving Social Security when the lower earner claims their benefits, the lower earning spouse is automatically “deemed” to be applying for spousal benefits if they are entitled to them. In this scenario the spouse doesn’t have the ability to wait and switch.

Your Social Security can also be seen in the Insights > Income and Expenses > Estimated Income, Drawdowns, and Debt Chart.

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