For many married retirees, Social Security is essential to their retirement budgets. Nearly 9 out of 10 retirees said Social Security is at least a minor source of household income, in an annual Gallup poll. As such, making the most of the benefits available to you is important to ensure you can get the most out of your golden years.
One important aspect of Social Security available to married couples are spousal benefits. The spousal benefit allows a spouse to claim benefits based on their partner’s earnings record, and they may provide a significant boost in household income. And one of the best ages to claim your Social Security spousal benefits is age 67.
Before diving into the details of the average spousal benefit at age 67 and why you might want to wait until reaching that age to make your Social Security claim, it’s important to understand how spousal benefits work.
How much can you receive in spousal benefits?
To be eligible for spousal Social Security benefits, you must meet the following criteria:
- Be married for at least one year to someone receiving Social Security benefits.
- Be at least 62 years old
(You may also qualify for spousal benefits without any additional restrictions if you are caring for your spouse’s child whose age 16 or younger or disabled.)
If you meet those requirements, you may be eligible for a benefit equal to half your spouse’s primary insurance amount. The primary insurance amount is the amount a beneficiary receives if they claim Social Security at their full retirement age.
Full retirement age is determined by what year the beneficiary is born. Anyone born in from 1943 to 1954 reached full retirement age at 66. That age increased by two months for every year beyond 1954 until reaching age 67 for anyone born in 1960 or later.
This table shows what percentage of your spouse’s primary insurance amount someone with a full retirement age of 67 will receive based on various claiming ages.
|Percentage of Spouse’s PIA
|67 or older
Some important details about spousal benefits
While you can’t claim spousal benefits until your spouse claims their own benefit, you can claim your own benefit and then switch to a spousal benefit once they start collecting their own Social Security. However, your spousal benefit will be calculated based on when you claimed your own benefit. So if you claim your own benefit at age 62, you’ll only be eligible to receive as little as 32.5% of your spouse’s primary insurance amount, not the full 50%.
Another important detail is that spousal benefits max out at full retirement age. That’s why age 67 is an important age for many retired and soon-to-be-retired couples. Anyone born in 1960 or later will maximize their spousal benefits by claiming at age 67 instead of waiting longer.
Here’s the average spousal Social Security benefit at age 67
According to the most recent data provided by the Social Security Administration, there were 84,034 67-year-olds collecting spousal retirement benefits in December 2022. On average, they received a monthly check of $841.44 per month, or about $10,097 per year.
It’s important to note that this number includes spouses who claimed benefits as early as 62, so if you wait until full retirement age, you’ll likely receive a higher-than-average monthly benefit. Of course, it all depends on your spouse’s earnings record.
What’s more, the vast majority of 67-year-olds are better off collecting benefits based on their own earnings record. There were 2.85 million 67-year-olds collecting retirement benefits on their own earnings record in December 2022. Those collecting spousal benefits total less than 3% of that number.
As such, you must look at your and your spouse’s numbers to determine whether you’ll take benefits based on your spouse’s earnings record or if you should optimize for taking your own benefit. Your claiming strategy can alter dramatically based on whether you claim one or the other. While spousal benefits max out at full retirement age, you’ll maximize your own benefit by waiting until age 70.
If you’re sure you’ll claim spousal benefits, waiting until you reach full retirement age is usually the best course of action. Even if you take benefits based on your own earnings record for a few years while waiting for your spouse to apply for benefits, it usually works out in the long run. But every situation is different, and you should consult a professional if you’re unsure what’s best.