Can a Wife Draw Social Security From Her Husband if She Has Her Own Retirement Plan?

Wives can draw retirement benefits on their husbands' records as early as age 60.

love of husband and wife image by Michael Cornelius from

A wife is eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits based on her husband's records. In 2014, 48.9 percent of female Social Security recipients received benefits based in part on their husband's earnings. Benefit amounts paid to wives are determined by the guidelines set by the government agency. However, retirement plans from certain jobs may reduce the amount of Social Security benefits wives are entitled to .

Drawing a Spouse's Social Security

If she has a husband, a retiree receives up to one-half of her husband’s Social Security retirement benefits. However, there are several factors that increase or decrease these amounts. Full benefits are paid to wives if they start collecting at full retirement age, which varies according to their year of birth. As of 2018, full retirement age is 65 if you were born after 1937, 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1959 and 67 if you were born after 1959. Social Security benefits are paid on a tax-free basis, but are considered taxable compensation if, combined with other forms of income, your total income exceeds the limits set by the benefit program. Other income includes wages, interest income and any other types of taxable income, including payments from retirement plans.

The Social Security Administration provides different options for wives who have their own retirement plans to maximize their incomes now or later if they’re still working. For example, a wife can continue working and receive Social Security spousal benefits from her husband’s records. If she decides to work and collect Social Security, she will receive reduced amounts if her earned incomes exceed annual limits. Another option is to postpone receiving benefits until a later date. Doing so will result in higher benefit payments later. She is entitled to collect benefits based on her husband’s records even if he is still working as well.

Effect of Other Retirement Plans

Payments from some retirement plans reduce the amounts of Social Security benefits to which wives are entitled if these plans are funded by jobs not covered by Social Security. Certain jobs in government or foreign countries fall in this category. For example, wives who receive pensions from certain government jobs will have their Social Security benefits reduced by two-thirds of the monthly pension payment. That is, if your pension pays $1,500 per month, $1,000 would be deducted from your Social Security payment.

Wives and Social Security Retirement

Wives can also qualify for their own Social Security Retirement benefits. They have to meet eligibility standards such as earning 40 credits and paying Social Security taxes during their years of work. A credit is earned for every $1,320 made in a year and a maximum of four can be earned annually. There is a maximum social security benefit for a married couple, though. If the benefit amounts on your record are equal to or greater than your husband's, you won’t receive any payments based on his records.

Ex-Wives and Social Security

Divorce doesn't necessarily end your entitlement to a spouse's Social Security earnings. If you were married for 10 years or more, you may be able to earn benefits, even if your ex remarried after your divorce. In order to qualify, you can't have remarried and you must have reached the minimum age of 62. This will only apply if the amount you would receive from your ex's Social Security is greater than the amount you're due. As the divorced spouse, you'll receive half of your ex's earnings, as long as you begin receiving those benefits at full retirement age. You can receive these benefits even if you continue to earn income through working after retirement.