When does it make sense to take my spousal benefits early?

In most cases if you’ve worked and paid into Social Security for more than the required forty quarters to be eligible for benefits, your retirement benefits will exceed those of your spousal benefits as a current or ex-spouse. In other words, spousal benefits usually don’t come into play.

That said, if you have never worked and paid into Social Security, spousal benefits could be a godsend to you as a current or ex-spouse. If your spouse is at full retirement age and is drawing high retirement benefits, you could take spousal benefits at sixty-two. Those benefits could allow you to retire early. Likewise, you could receive survivor benefits if your spouse dies. If you’re divorced and you’ve never worked, taking reduced spousal benefits combined with alimony checks could improve the quality of your life. Since alimony doesn’t count against the earnings limit you could even work a job that paid under or just over the earnings limit to add more income to your cash flow. In 2018, the earnings limit was $17,040.

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