Marriage is a tradition that exists on every continent and in nearly every country. Understanding how your future retirement might affect your spouse is important. When you’re planning for your retirement, here are a few things to remember:

Your spouse’s benefit amount could be as much as 50 percent of your spouse’s full retirement age amount, if you are full retirement age when you take it. If you qualify for a benefit from your own work history and a spouse’s record, we always pay your own benefit first. You cannot receive a spouse’s benefits unless your spouse is receiving his or her retirement benefits (except for divorced spouses). If you took your reduced retirement first while waiting for your spouse to retire, when you add spouse’s benefits later, your own retirement portion remains reduced, which causes the total retirement and spouses benefit together to total less than 50 percent of the worker’s amount. You can find out more at socialsecurity.gov/OACT/quickcalc/spouse.html.

On the other hand, if your spouse’s retirement benefit is higher than your retirement benefit, and he or she chooses to take reduced benefits and dies first, your survivor benefit will be reduced, but may be higher than what your spouse received. If the deceased worker started receiving reduced retirement benefits before full retirement age, a special rule called the retirement insurance benefit limit may apply to the surviving spouse.

Knowing how your finances affect your spouse’s benefit can help both of you avoid future impacts. More information can be found at www.socialsecurity.gov/planners.

Tiggemann is a Social Security spokeswoman.

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