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Married or Divorced? You Can Get Out of $ 757 a Month in Social Security Benefits

About 85% of older Americans depend on Social Security for retirement, according to a report from the Society of Actuaries, with nearly two-thirds of those retirees claiming their monthly checks are a major source of we.

Whether you expect Social Security to play an important role in your retirement or not, it is a good idea to make sure you increase your monthly checks. And if you are currently married or divorced, you can collect more than you think.

Stacked Social Security cards

Image source: Getty Images.

How your marital status will affect your benefits

Generally, your Social Security benefit amount is based on your employment record and your earnings throughout your career. However, you may also be eligible for spouse or divorce benefits, whether you receive benefits based on your own employment record or not.

To collect spouse benefits, you will need to marry someone who is entitled to receive retirement benefits. With divorce benefits, your ex-spouse must be eligible to receive benefits, and your marriage must last at least 10 years. In addition, you may not be currently married to collect divorce benefits.

How much you can receive in spouse benefits or divorce depends on several factors, but the maximum you can collect is 50% of the amount your spouse or ex-spouse is entitled to receive in his or her retirement age (FRA ).

The average retiree receives $ 1,514 per month in benefits, according to the Social Security Administration. If your spouse or ex-spouse has the right to collect that amount in his or her FRA, you can receive up to half of it, or $ 757 per month, on spouse benefits or spousal divorce.

Factors that may affect how much you receive

You could potentially receive hundreds of dollars per month in marital or divorce benefits, but there are a number of factors that will affect how much you receive, such as your work history and the age you started claiming.

If you are entitled to Social Security benefits based on your own employment record, you can still get marital or divorce benefits. However, you will only receive more than two amounts. For example, if your spouse collects $ 2,000 per month in his or her FRA benefits and you are eligible to receive $ 800 per month in your FRA based on the work record, you will receive $ 1,000 per month in spouse, not $ 1,800 per month.

In addition, to receive as much as possible, you will have to wait until your FRA starts claiming. If you claim before that age, the amount of your benefit will be reduced. Waiting beyond your FRA will also not result in larger checks if you collect spouse or divorce benefits, so there is no financial incentive to delay benefits beyond your FRA.

Finally, even if your spouse or ex-spouse may choose to delay claiming benefits to get a larger check for themselves, it will not affect how much you will receive in marital benefits or divorce. If your spouse or ex-spouse waits until the end of their FRA to file for benefits, the most you can collect is still 50% of his or her FRA benefit amount.

How to tell if you are eligible for extra money on benefits

The Social Security Administration will not usually notify those who qualify for these types of benefits, and you will need to apply for them if you are eligible. For that reason, it is important to know whether or not you are getting spousal or divorce benefits or if you cannot miss out on extra cash each month.

If you meet the criteria for spouse or divorce benefits, consider how the value of your benefit extends to the spouse or ex-spouse. If you receive less (or if you are not eligible for benefits at all based on your employment record), you may be eligible for spouse benefits or divorce.

Social Security benefits are a significant source of income for many older Americans, so it pays to make sure you collect as much as possible. By taking advantage of spouse benefits or divorce, you can boost your checks by hundreds of dollars each month.

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