You can only collect Social Security if you’ve worked at least forty quarters and paid into the program. That’s why working off the books is such a bad idea. If you have never married and never paid into Social Security, it also means you don’t get Medicare Part A (hospitalization) for free. If you’ve never worked and paid into Social Security, you are not eligible for disability benefits if you become disabled.
Let’s assume you never married, but you did work a little and paid into Social Security for twenty-nine or fewer quarters. If that’s the case, you can buy Medicare Part A coverage. In 2017, the monthly premium was $413 in this case. If you paid into Social Security for thirty to thirty-nine quarters, the monthly premium for Medicare Part A in 2017 was $227.
If you’ve never paid into Social Security, or if you’ve only paid in a little, getting married to someone who has paid into the program for forty quarters or more could substantially improve your quality of life in retirement. The benefit for free Medicare Part A coverage was equal to $4,956 in 2017. And that doesn’t even take into account the value of spousal and survivor benefits if you’ve never worked and paid into Social Security.
Now let’s assume you are married, or you are divorced but not remarried. The good news is that you may be eligible for spousal benefits if you’ve been married for at least one year. You may be eligible for spousal benefits as an ex-spouse if you were married for ten years prior to the divorce. Plus, you may also qualify for Medicare Part A if you meet the eligibility requirements as a spouse or as an ex-spouse. At full retirement age, spousal benefits are 50 percent of your spouse or ex-spouse’s full retirement benefits. Current and ex-spouses each can draw on the worker’s Social Security work record. You can receive reduced spousal benefits if you begin taking them at sixty-two.
You are eligible for survivor benefits if your spouse dies and you have been married for at least nine months. You can’t have remarried prior to age sixty. At your full retirement age, survivor benefits are equal to 100 percent of your deceased spouse’s full retirement benefits. You can begin drawing a reduced survivor benefit at age sixty. The benefit at age sixty is equal to 71.5 percent of your deceased spouse’s full retirement benefit. You can also qualify for free or reduced-cost Medicare Part A when you reach the age of sixty-five.
If you were married for ten years and then divorced and did not remarry prior to age sixty, you would also qualify for survivor benefits as an ex-spouse. You’d also be eligible for Medicare Part A.