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Yolanda York, Social Security Public Affairs Specialist in San Diego, CA

You probably already know that when it comes time to apply for retirement, you can do it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

But did you know that spouses can apply online, too?

Thatís right. If you are a spouse applying for benefits based on your husbandís or wifeís record, you can do it online from the convenience of your own home. Itís so easy!

Wonder whether you may qualify to apply for spouseís benefits? If you are a spouse who has not worked or who has worked for very low wages, you could be entitled to a benefit equal to as much as one-half of your retired spouse's full benefit. Even if you are divorced, you may be eligible for benefits based on the employment record of your former spouse.

To get benefits on your spouseís record, you must be at least age 62 or have a qualifying child in your care ó a child who is under age 16 or who receives Social Security disability benefits.

The amount of your spousal benefit depends on your age at retirement. If you begin receiving benefits before full retirement age, your benefits will be permanently reduced in most cases.

You also may be eligible for a retirement benefit based on your own earnings. If that benefit is higher than the spousal benefit, Social Security would pay you the higher benefit. We compare which of the two benefits would be more beneficial to you, and discuss the options you have.

If you have reached your full retirement age and are eligible for a spouse's benefit as well as your own retirement benefit, you may choose to receive the spouse's benefits only in order to continue accruing delayed retirement credits on your own Social Security record. You may then file for benefits at a later date and receive a higher monthly benefit based on the effect of delayed retirement credits.

Remember that if you are a spouse who is taking care of a minor child (16 or under) or a child who is disabled and gets Social Security benefits on your or your spouseís record, you can receive a benefit, regardless of your retirement age.

Read more about Social Security Retirement Benefits at www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10035.html.

Ready to apply for benefits right now? You can do it online at www.socialsecurity.gov/applyonline.

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