Social Security Choices

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How Much Are Benefits?

The spousal benefits are computed as a fraction of the principal beneficiary's full retirement (FRA) benefits. If the spouse is at his/her FRA (age 66 for retirees currently), then the spousal benefit is 50 percent of the principal's FRA benefit. For example, if the principal's FRA benefit is $1,000 a month, the spousal benefit is $500 a month, provided the spouse claims the benefit no earlier than age 66. If the spouse claims this benefit at an earlier age, the benefit is reduced by as much as 30 percent depending on the spouse's claiming age (see our discussion in The Cost Of Claiming Benefits Early).

Please note that if your spouse qualifies for a pension from a federal, state or local government based on work where she or he did not pay Social Security taxes, the spouse's Social Security benefits may be reduced or even eliminated. If you think that your spouse may fall into this category, you and your spouse should read Government Pension Offset (SSA publication No. 05-10007).