How to Draw on a Husband's Social Security Benefits

The Social Security Administration reports that 93 percent of all workers in the United States pay into Social Security to receive future retirement benefits. Even that number, estimated to be 156 million workers, does not include all Social Security recipients. If you are the wife of a worker, you may be entitled to spousal benefits based on your husband's work history. Your spouse must be of full retirement age as defined by Social Security, and you must be at least age 62.

Your Spouse Must File for Benefits

To collect on the work history of your spouse, he must file first before you can claim benefits. Social Security requires that he qualify for benefits with at least 10 years or 40 credits of income in which he paid into the Social Security system. Once he qualifies, you may file for benefits based on his work history. This rule does not apply to a divorced spouse, just the current spouse. Your spouse does not have to collect benefits at this time. He can suspend his benefits and continue working, allowing his benefits to accrue.

You Must Be Retirement Age

You must be 61 years and 9 months before you file for Social Security benefits. This is your early retirement age. Age 66 is full retirement age for persons born between 1943 and 1954. If you choose to take early retirement, you will receive limited benefits with your income subjected to a Social Security penalty.

Your Benefits Are Limited

If you file for benefits on the work history of a spouse, your maximum benefit is 50 percent of his entitlement. If you choose to take early retirement at age 62 and his full retirement age is 66, your benefit is about 35 percent of his entitlement. Your benefit creeps up each year, but stops increasing when you take it. If you wait until age 64 to take retirement benefits on his work history, you will receive 42.5 percent of his benefit. You only get the full 50 percent if you wait to collect at full retirement age.

Penalties May Be Imposed on Your Earnings

If you choose to work while you receive early retirement benefits based on your spouse’s income, you may be subject to penalties. If you make more than $14,160 annually before your full retirement year, Social Security takes $1 in penalties for every $2 you make in excess of the limit. It would do the same for your spouse if he takes early retirement.