Q&A: Social Security eligibility

Dear Liz: I have a few Social Security credits but not enough for full Social Security benefits. My husband receives a check monthly. He is 79 and I am 75. Am I eligible for any benefits at this time?

Answer: You’ve been eligible for full spousal benefits since you turned 65. You could have gotten a reduced amount as early as age 62. You’ve missed out on thousands of dollars of benefits that were yours to claim.

People need 40 credits with Social Security to apply for their own retirement benefits. Typically that means working a minimum of 10 years. But you didn’t have to work at all to receive spousal benefits based on your husband’s employment record. At your own full retirement age (which is now 66, but was 65 until recently), you could have received a monthly check equal to 50% of your husband’s benefit.

Once you file, you only can get six months of retroactive benefits. There’s nothing that can be done about the rest of the benefits you’ve missed, but perhaps this letter will alert other spouses that they may qualify for Social Security even if they haven’t worked much outside the home.

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