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Can You Collect Double Social Security Benefits?

If you're married, Social Security offers benefits both under your own work history and under your spouse's work history. But can you claim both, essentially giving you a double Social Security benefit?

In the following video from our Social Security Q&A series, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, answers a question from Fool reader Thomas, who asks whether he can file both for spousal benefits and for his own benefits. Dan explains that you're only entitled to receive spousal benefits if your spouse files for Social Security under her own work history, and so if you're the only person to file, you can only claim your own benefits. Moreover, Dan points out that in combining spousal benefits and your own, you don't simply add the two amounts together, but rather essentially end up getting whichever the greater amount happens to be. Even without double benefits, though, the interplay between your own benefits and spousal benefits is worth looking into.

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Have general questions about Social Security? Email them to SocialSecurity@fool.com, and they might be the subject of a future video!


Read/Post Comments (15) | Recommend This Article (45)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 3:41 PM, trishtlc wrote:

    My husband and I have both worked most of our lives. I just turned 60 and he's 58. We've been married for 40 years. What I would like to know is "can" we get divorced and both collect our own social securities? Of course, we would still live together. It seems you have to do anything you can to get everything you've paid in.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 4:27 PM, mabbjazz wrote:

    Just get divorced and continue to live together, and you can collect both.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 4:57 PM, yooperintx wrote:

    trishtic - No need to get divorced. If you both qualify for SS, you each can collect on your own record or, if one had substantially lower income, that person can collect spousal benefits if it is higher than their own benefit.

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 6:09 PM, gshort43 wrote:

    My wife and I both worked and both collect our own ss

  • Report this Comment On May 10, 2014, at 11:49 PM, sherrylthomas wrote:

    my husband is totally disabled and I am also disabled, if he were to die I would not be able to pay my bills only from my social security. Right now we both collect our own SS. Would I still be able to collect mine and his upon his death?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 12:52 AM, gadfly1000 wrote:

    If you're divorced, were married at least 10 yrs and are both at full retirement age, you can both file and suspend your own benefits, both collect spouse benefits and let your own benefits continue to grow (up to age 70).

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 1:47 AM, emailnodata wrote:

    Don't "die"....when you croak, have the old lady stick you in a deep freeze (these are inexpensive).

    She can then continue to collect your checks until SHE dies...at that point, who cares?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 3:33 AM, norm5919 wrote:

    I was married for eighteen years to my wife before we divorced. She worked the whole time and since remarried. I never did. I am 61 and looking at filing ss next year. Do I qualify for any percentage of her social security work history?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 7:51 AM, LADDLADY1965 wrote:

    I am 49, thirteen years younger than my husband...he is 60 and we've been married for 20 years. He is going to retire at 65 and draw SS what SS rules apply to us?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 8:11 AM, creskick wrote:

    I'm 57 and my ex and I were married for 28 yrs. She was on disability and passed away a month ago. My daughter read that I can draw on her benefits when I turn 60, is that true and will it affect my own benefits later?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 8:57 AM, Soapscumbuildup wrote:

    I'm single, childless and have been supporting myself since I was 17. I'm 62 now. Can I get double SS or is that only for the privleged few?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 11:02 AM, trikemaker wrote:

    My late wife were married for 32 years be for she passed in 1998

    My son have been disabied for years tryed to collect on her benafit some time ago BUT no can do.

    Now I read that i may be able to collect on some for hers under RESTRICT Filing can you tell me about this thank you Tom

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 11:33 AM, choppeR1 wrote:

    My second wife and I were married for 12 years before we got divorced, She has died at age 70. Can I file and collect her social security benefits as well as the check I now receive for SS?

  • Report this Comment On May 11, 2014, at 10:15 PM, RHO1953 wrote:

    Call SS, they will tell you in a few minutes whether you can collect or not. If you were married at the time of your spouses death you can probably get survivors benefits if you aren't earning wages. You can collect a pension and get survivors benefits. I doubt you can collect survivors benefits if you were divorced at the time of your ex's death, but I don't know that for sure. Call and see.

  • Report this Comment On May 12, 2014, at 9:18 AM, Madnessdoes wrote:

    Here is how it works, if you are married lets say 40 years, your spouse dies, you collect the larger of the SSI payments, you cannot collect 2 social security checks, you can collect the larger of the SSI payments, to the other poster who has been married 18 years then divorced, NO you cannot collect on her SSI benefits, what are you thinking? Now as far as getting a divorce and then living together then collecting separate checks that is a neat idea, one call to a SSI disability attorney can answer that question will quick. Or now that I think about it a divorce lawyer might be able to answer that question too.

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Dan Caplinger
TMFGalagan

Dan Caplinger has been a contract writer for the Motley Fool since 2006. As the Fool's Director of Investment Planning, Dan oversees much of the personal-finance and investment-planning content published daily on Fool.com. With a background as an estate-planning attorney and independent financial consultant, Dan's articles are based on more than 20 years of experience from all angles of the financial world.

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