Social Security benefits can help you enjoy a better and more comfortable retirement life, but it can be hard to pay the bills using your benefits alone.

The average retiree gets around $1,500 a month, as reported by the Social Security Administration. This comes to around $18,000 a year, and unless you have some money saved waiting for you in your retirement fund, it might be challenging to pay your bills.

Fortunately, you might be entitled to more in benefits than you believe. If you are divorced or married, you could be eligible to get extra cash in divorce or spousal benefits.

Spousal benefits explained

If you are currently married to a person who is entitled to get Social Security, you might be eligible for spousal benefits depending on that person’s work record.

The most you can get in spousal social security benefits is half of the money your spouse will get at her full retirement age (known as FRA). As one example, if your spouse will get $2,000 a month at her FRA, the max amount you can get in spousal income is around half of this, or $1,000 a month.

If you are collecting over that in benefits thanks to your own work history, you do not qualify for spousal benefits. But if your benefit is under what you would get in spousal benefits, you will receive the higher of the two totals. That means if you are bringing in, say, $800 each month based on your work history and you are eligible to get $1,000 per month in spousal income, you will get $1,000 per month — not $1,800 a month.

Divorce benefits explained

Divorce benefits are like spousal benefits in a lot of ways, but there is one important difference — you cannot be married.

To qualify for these divorce benefits, your past marriage might have lasted for around 10 years. If your ex-spouse then remarried, that won’t change your ability to get divorce benefits. Claiming divorce benefits also will not stop your ex-spouse’s new partner from getting spousal benefits.

As with spousal benefits, the most you can get is 50% of the total your ex-spouse is getting at his or her full retirement age. Also, if you have been divorced for under two years, you will need to wait until your spouse gets Social Security before you can start getting divorce benefits.

Author: Blake Ambrose

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