Social Security Q&A: How Will Marriage Affect My Disability Benefit?

Social Security Q&A

Laurence Kotlikoff is a professor of economics at Boston University who has been answering questions and writing columns about Social Security each week for the past two years on PBS NEWSHOUR’s website. OpenRetirement has asked Professor Kotlikoff to post a Q&A each day from those columns. He has also developed software, called Maximize My Social Security, to help retirees secure the highest lifetime Social Security benefits. You can find the software here: www.maximizemysocialsecurity.com


Question: I’m 49 and receiving disability benefits. I’m getting married in June. How will this affect my disability payments?

Answer: Your wife will be able to collect spousal benefits on your earnings record. And if you die, she can start receiving survivor benefits. Spousal benefits can begin, at a reduced level, starting at age 62. Reduced survivor benefits can begin at 60. You need to be married for nine months for your spouse to qualify for survivor benefits if you die, and for one year for your spouse to qualify for spousal benefits. Your getting married won’t adversely affect your own Social Security benefit, although it could impact your means-tested Supplemental Security Income as well as eligibility for food stamps and other forms of government assistance.


When it comes to personal finance, economics and our software care about one thing—your living standard. All questions in personal finance boil down to your living standard. Your decision about when and how to take Social Security can affect your living standard throughout your retirement.

I am a professor of economics and I’ve spent a good part of my academic career studying personal financial behavior. Here’s why my colleagues and I developed Maximize My Social Security. Deciding, on your own, which Social Security benefits to take and in which month to take them is incredibly difficult. Most households face millions of options. You can easily lose tens of thousands of dollars making the wrong choices.

My company’s software, Maximize My Social Security, can help you avoid costly mistakes and instead discover your maximized lifetime household benefits.

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