One of the key benefits of Social Security is the spousal benefit: a payment at retirement that goes not to the worker who paid into Social Security over time, but his/her spouse. The payment was originally designed to provide retirement support for stay-at-home spouses in a single-income household, and remains relevant for many spouses who take at least some time off from work to raise a family.

However, the spousal benefit is not only available for currently married couples. Single people who were previously married may also be entitled, based on the ex-spouse’s earnings record. And for some divorcees, an even bigger opportunity exists to coordinate claiming the ex-spouse’s spousal benefit first, and switching to the individual’s own retirement benefits later.

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