Social Security is more than a retirement system. The Social Security Administration, or SSA, provides Social Security benefits for qualified workers who become disabled. The system also helps with benefits for family members of retirees and for families that lose a spouse or parent. In some cases, disabled children can receive benefits into adulthood.
Unless you have a disability that you've had all your life, you must meet earnings requirements to receive Social Security disability insurance benefits. Therefore, as a wife who has never worked, you cannot receive disability benefits based on your husband’s work record. You may, however, receive retirement benefits based on your husband’s work record.
Spousal Retirement Benefits
As the non-working wife of a Social Security retiree benefit recipient, you can receive as much as one-half of your husband’s benefit. You can opt to take your benefit as early as age 62 at a reduced rate. The reduced amount you can receive depends on your full retirement age. If your full retirement age is 65 and you decide to access benefits at age 62, you will receive 37.5 percent of your husband’s benefit, at the time of publication. If your full retirement age is 66, you can expect to receive 35 percent of your husband’s benefit if you take the benefit at age 62. You will only get 32.5 percent of your husband’s benefit amount if your full retirement age is 67 and you access benefits at age 62, at the time of publication.
Benefits for Other Family Members
Your unmarried children who are under the age of 19 and full-time students who have yet to graduate from high school can receive benefits under your husband’s work record. Disabled children, even if the child is over the age of 19, may also receive benefits.
Maximum Family Benefits
Children who are eligible for benefits receive up to one-half of your full retirement benefit. The overall benefits are limited to 150 to 180 percent of your husband’s benefit amount. If the total benefits paid to you and your children add up to more that that amount, the benefits paid to family members will reduce accordingly. Your husband’s benefit amount will not change.
As a wife who has not worked during your married life, you must wait until your husband draws benefits before you can apply for benefits under his work record. Divorced spouses may qualify for benefits if the marriage lasted for at least 10 years. Money paid to an ex-spouse does not reduce your husband’s benefit, nor does it reduce benefits for you or your children. If you are taking care of a child who is under 16 years of age or disabled and receiving Social Security benefits on your husband’s record, you get full benefits regardless of your age. Spousal benefits are available for husbands as well as wives.
Cheryl Withrow is a writer in Michigan’s untamed Upper Peninsula. Following a teaching career she served alternately as editor of the "Washington County News" and the "Geneva County Reaper," and as associate editor of "Bay Life" magazine. Withrow holds a Bachelor of Science in business with a major in accountancy from Wright State University and a Bachelor of Arts in English from Ohio University.