Navigating Social Security: Understanding the Factors That May Affect Your Spousal Benefit Eligibility

One must simply marry a qualifying worker to be eligible for a spousal Social Security benefit.

One must simply marry a qualifying worker to be eligible for a spousal Social Security benefit.

That individual has accumulated enough work experience to qualify for at least 40 work credits, which is typically around 10 years or more.

However, meeting the requirements for a spousal benefit and receiving it are not always the same.

Here, we’ll delve into the reasons you may not receive a spousal benefit and why this situation could have some positive aspects.

Starting with the worker’s benefit is the first step in determining a spousal benefit.

To begin, the initial step involves calculating the individual’s average indexed monthly earnings (AIME) by adding up their income from the 35 years with the highest earnings, adjusted for inflation, and then dividing that total by 420, which represents the number of months in 35 years.

After that, their AIME is factored into the Social Security benefit formula for the year they reached 60. Let’s delve deeper into the 2024 formula:

  • Calculate 90% of the initial $1,174 of your AIME. 
  • Calculate 32% of any value between $1,174 and $7,078. 
  • When calculating, remember to multiply any figure exceeding $7,078 by 15%. 
  • Include the outcomes from the previous steps and round them down to the nearest $0.10.

Decoding Social Security: Maximizing Benefits With Bend Points and Pia


One must simply marry a qualifying worker to be eligible for a spousal Social Security benefit.


Each year, only the two dollar amounts in the formula, referred to as the bend points, are updated. The IRS has a table available for viewing past bend points.

The outcome of this calculation is the primary insurance amount (PIA), which may differ from the worker’s benefit. One must claim Social Security at their full retirement age (FRA) to receive this amount.

Enrolling in the program sooner can lead to a reduction in the worker’s benefit by as much as 30%, but postponing Social Security until later could increase the worker’s benefit by up to 32%.

Benefits for spouses depend on the primary insurance amount of the worker. You can receive up to 50% of their PIA, but the amount could be reduced by as much as 35% based on when you apply for benefits.

You cannot increase spousal benefits by postponing Social Security beyond your FRA.

For individuals who have never worked or did not work long enough to qualify for Social Security on their own, a spousal benefit is the only available option.

Many individuals nowadays qualify for both a retired worker’s benefit and a spousal benefit. Now, this is where it starts to get really intriguing.

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