For many retirees, Social Security benefits are a lifeline. But in order to qualify for benefits, you have to have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years.
If you haven’t worked that long, though, you may not be out of luck. Retirement benefits are not the only type of Social Security you could qualify for, and there are three other types of benefits you could receive even if you’ve never worked at all.
1. Spousal benefits
If you’re married to someone who is entitled to Social Security benefits, you could collect spousal benefits based on his or her work record.
The maximum you can receive is 50% of the amount your spouse will earn at full retirement age (FRA). In order to collect that full amount, you’ll also need to wait until your FRA to claim. If you file early (as early as age 62), you’ll receive a reduced benefit amount.
You can also receive spousal benefits even if you’re entitled to Social Security based on your own work record. However, you’ll only receive the higher of the two amounts, not both.
For example, say you qualify for $800 per month in benefits based on your own record. Let’s also say your spouse is entitled to $2,000 per month at FRA, meaning you could collect $1,000 per month in spousal benefits. In this scenario, you’d receive $1,000 per month because it’s the higher of the two amounts.
2. Divorce benefits
Divorce benefits are similar to spousal benefits in many ways, except you’re receiving Social Security based on an ex-spouse’s work record.
To qualify for divorce benefits, your marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years, and you cannot currently be married. If your ex-spouse has remarried, though, that will not affect your ability to claim divorce benefits.
In addition, if you’ve been divorced for less than two years, you will need to wait until your ex-spouse files for Social Security before you can claim divorce benefits. Like spousal benefits, the most you can receive is half of the amount your ex-spouse is entitled to at FRA.
3. Survivors benefits
Survivors benefits are available to those who were financially dependent on someone who passed away. They’re generally reserved for widows and widowers, but in some cases, they’re also available for ex-spouses, parents, children, and other family members.
The amount you can receive in survivors benefits depends on your age and the age of the person who passed away, your relation to the deceased, and how much he or she was receiving from Social Security. If you believe you might be eligible for survivors benefits, it’s best to contact the Social Security Administration to see if you qualify.
Social Security can make retirement more affordable, so it’s worthwhile to see whether you might be eligible for any of these types of benefits. Even if you’ve never worked, you could collect more than you might think from Social Security.
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