Social Security Myth #2: You Didn’t Pay In, You Can’t Collect

social security myth

MYTH: If you are married and were a non-working spouse or did not have enough work credits to qualify on your own, you are not eligible for Social Security.

It seems obvious enough. If you didn’t pay into the system, you can’t collect from it. Fortunately for many homemakers, that’s not how it works in all cases. Social Security has protections in place for spouses that raised children or otherwise didn’t pursue a career while their husbands (or wives) earned the household income.

While both spouses are living, the non-working spouse can collect up to half the amount of the working spouse’s full retirement age benefit. If widowed, the non-working spouse will receive the full Social Security benefit that the deceased spouse was receiving.

If both spouses qualify for benefits based on their individual work histories, the one with the lower benefit will receive additional Social Security income for a total benefit amount equal to one half the amount received by the higher-earning spouse.

To be eligible for Social Security, an individual must have paid into the system for at least 40 quarters, paying Social Security taxes through payroll withholdings or directly to the IRS. That means at least ten years of paid work.

Social Security reviews the last 35 years of work history to determine your benefit amount, and zero income years will take your benefits down. If you own a business and your spouse assists you in running it, make sure to pay for the work – at least $5,200 a year. This will allow your spouse to earn Social Security credits and become fully vested in the system, which means more income in retirement for both of you.

Not associated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency.

4 comments on “Social Security Myth #2: You Didn’t Pay In, You Can’t Collect

  1. Robyn Marie Young on

    The company I just started working for does not take out Social Security. If I continue working for this company until I retire, how will this affect what I’ve already paid into Social Security and will I still be eligible for Social Security benefits when I’m able?

  2. Oscar on

    My spouse and I have been married for 25 years. During all this time and the present, she has been a home-maker and raising a child. I am retired and have been receiving Soc Sec payments since 2020 or so.
    Is the amount my spouse may be eligible to collect a reduction to my monthly Soc Sec check or ?

    • fsykes on

      Oscar, your wife would be eligible for a 1/2 benefit of what you are receiving once she reaches the age of 62 or older and it dosn’t change your amount. Ideally you would wait until you are 70 and she woudl be 67 to reach maximum benefits.


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