Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

3 Ways to Collect Social Security Benefits Even if You've Never Worked

By Katie Brockman – Jul 23, 2021 at 7:30AM

Key Points

You’re reading a free article with opinions that may differ from The Motley Fool’s Premium Investing Services. Become a Motley Fool member today to get instant access to our top analyst recommendations, in-depth research, investing resources, and more. Learn More

Even if you don't have any work history, you may still be entitled to benefits.

Retirement is becoming more and more expensive, and Social Security benefits can help boost your income in your senior years.

However, not everyone is eligible to collect Social Security in retirement. In order to qualify for benefits, you need to have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years before you claim. If you haven't worked that long, you're not eligible for benefits based on your work record.

Even if you've never worked, though, there are still a few ways to collect benefits. By taking advantage of these options, you may be able to receive more from Social Security than you think.

Stack of Social Security cards.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. Spousal benefits

If you're currently married to someone who is entitled to Social Security benefits, you may qualify for spousal benefits.

The most you can receive in spousal benefits is 50% of the amount your spouse will receive by claiming at his or her full retirement age (FRA). For example, if your spouse will collect $2,000 per month by filing at his or her FRA, the maximum you can receive is $1,000 per month.

In order to receive the maximum amount you're entitled to in spousal benefits, you will need to wait until your FRA to start collecting checks. Your FRA is either age 66, 66 and a few months, or 67, depending on the year you were born. If you file for benefits before your FRA (as early as age 62), you'll receive smaller monthly payments.

2. Divorce benefits

Divorce benefits are similar to spousal benefits, except you're claiming based on an ex-spouse's work record.

To qualify for divorce benefits, your marriage must have lasted for at least 10 years, and you cannot currently be married. If your ex-spouse has remarried, however, that will not impact your ability to claim divorce benefits. Also, if you've been divorced for less than two years, you'll need to wait until your ex-spouse files for benefits before you can begin claiming.

Like with spousal benefits, the most you can earn is 50% of the amount your ex-spouse would collect at his or her FRA. And if you claim before your own FRA, you'll receive less than the maximum amount you're entitled to collect.

3. Survivors benefits

If you're financially dependent on someone who passes away, you may be entitled to receive Social Security survivors benefits. Generally, survivors benefits are reserved for widow(er)s. However, in some cases, they're also available to children, parents, ex-spouses, and other family members.

How much you could receive in survivors benefits depends on your age, your relation to the deceased person, and his or her work record. If you're a widow(er), you've reached your FRA, and your spouse was entitled to Social Security benefits, you may be entitled to collect his or her entire benefit amount.

Survivors benefits are unique for each situation, so if you're not sure whether you're eligible, it's best to contact the Social Security Administration to see if you qualify.

Social Security benefits are a vital source of income for many retirees, and you may be eligible for monthly checks even if you've never worked. By researching your options, you can collect as much money as possible and enjoy a more financially secure retirement.

The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.

Related Articles

Premium Investing Services

Invest better with The Motley Fool. Get stock recommendations, portfolio guidance, and more from The Motley Fool's premium services.