retirement

Social Security benefits and same-sex marriage

The spousal benefit
The spousal benefit © euko/Shutterstock.com

The spousal benefit

Social Security's spousal benefit allows marriage partners more flexibility in planning for retirement in a number of ways. For example, at full retirement age, lower-earning spouses can collect a benefit based on their own record or half of their higher-earning spouse's benefit, whichever is larger.

Also, higher-earning spouses can, at full retirement age, "file and suspend," enabling their lower-earning spouse to collect benefits while they continue to work and accrue additional retirement credits.

"Quite a bit of money could be at stake," says David Rae, a CFP professional and vice president of investments for Trilogy Financial Services in the Los Angeles area, "especially if one partner stayed home."

A divorced person who was married for 10 years can also claim spousal benefits.

Attorneys with the Boston-based Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, or GLAD, say May 2014 was the earliest date that Social Security benefits based on the earnings record of a former spouse of the same sex could be claimed.

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