There is a multitude of possibilities...

As you prepare to claim Social Security benefits, various situations can complicate two married individuals, who are both eligible, living in one household claiming benefits.

In this hands-on video series, “Understanding Social Security,” Senior Financial Planner David Cechanowicz, discusses multiple scenarios that complicate the claiming process.


In the 1960s, 70% of married couples with children under 18 lived in a household where only the father was employed. By 2002, that number of “traditional family households” had fallen to only 7%. At that same time, 29% of households were considered dual-income.

By 2019, dual-income households accounted for almost 54% of total households.

This significant shift in dual-income households over multiple decades is created an extremely diverse pool of dual-income households. In some cases,

  • we see two highly paid individuals’ lifetime earnings near the maximum,
  • there may be two incomes at a more average income level, or
  • you may find two incomes with one individual having significantly reduced lifetime earnings.

Each situation creates a unique opportunity to analyze the possibilities within the 17 factors framework that go into making a wise Social Security claiming decision.

In 2015 Congress changed the law around spousal claiming in a dual-income household.

It made one set of rules for everyone born on or before January 1, 1954, and the second set for all born after. This means that in some dual-income households, each individual has separate claiming rules. In other households, both individuals are under the same set of rules. Soon all Social Security recipients and claimants will be operating under the second set of rules.

17 Factors to Consider Consider When Claiming Social Security

Dual-income married couples have as many as eight Social Security benefits in the household. Each worker is entitled to their own benefit in addition to the following potential benefits:

  1. Worker A could be eligible for spouse benefits on the work record of worker B.
  2. Worker B could be eligible for spouse benefits on the work record of worker A.
  3. Worker A could be eligible for ex-spouse benefits on the work record of worker B.
  4. Worker B could be eligible for ex-spouse benefits on the work record of worker A.
  5. Both workers A and B could be eligible for survivor benefits from their deceased spouse.
  6. Both workers A and B could be eligible for survivor benefits from their deceased ex-spouse.

Timing of benefits

Starting with the month an individual turns age 62, the benefit amount increases every month until the claimant reaches age 70. That means that in a dual-income household with two people of the same age, there are 72 possible claiming age combinations.

Since benefits change monthly, however, there are 9,216 possible age combinations for claiming benefits.

So when should you claim, and when should your spouse claim? That answer will depend on how all of the various factors that affect claiming blend together for your circumstances.