Here's What the Average Couple on Social Security Is Earning in 2024

Two checks are definitely better than one, but how far they go depends in part on your choices.

Married couples typically have greater retirement expenses than single adults because they have to cover two people. That’s twice as many groceries, twice the healthcare bills, and twice the goals you’ll have to budget for.

But they also have an advantage when it comes to Social Security benefits. As long as at least one partner worked long enough to qualify, the couple will receive two monthly checks. Here’s what that can add up to in annual income from the program.

Smiling couple eating ice cream and walking down a sidewalk.

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What the average couple gets from Social Security right now

The average monthly retirement benefit as of May 2024 is $1,917 per month. If both spouses qualified for this amount, their household monthly benefits would be $3,834 per month, or about $46,000 per year. For most people, that’ll go a long way toward covering their annual retirement expenses. They can supplement these benefits with personal savings or employment income.

But many couples don’t get quite this much. If only one partner worked long enough to qualify for Social Security, the other cannot claim a retirement benefit of their own. However, they can claim a spousal benefit. This is up to one-half of the retirement benefit the worker qualifies for at their full retirement age. So if a couple received one average retirement benefit of $1,917 per month and one average spousal benefit of $911 per month, their total Social Security income would be $2,828 per month, or a little under $34,000 annually.

But even this is only a rough estimate. Most workers aren’t going to qualify for the exact average benefit. And even those that do may get a different amount, depending on their age when they sign up.

How married couples can plan for Social Security in retirement

Understanding how much you can expect from Social Security is key to budgeting effectively for retirement. It’s often easiest to work this out by creating a my Social Security account.

After verifying your identity, the account can tell you whether you’ve worked long enough to qualify for Social Security. If you have, there’s a tool that estimates your monthly benefit at every possible claiming age. You can also tweak estimates of your future earnings if you want to see how a pay raise might affect your checks, for example.

You can apply for retirement benefits after turning 62, but if you want the full benefit you’re entitled to, you must wait until your full retirement age (FRA). That’s 66 to 67, depending on your birth year. Claiming early will shrink your benefit up to 30%, but you can also delay benefits beyond your FRA. Doing so will gradually increase your benefit (as much as 32%) until it maxes out at age 70.

Spousal benefits are a bit trickier. Most people can also apply as early as 62 but only if your spouse is already claiming Social Security. If not, you must wait until they apply. Delaying Social Security will gradually increase your monthly benefit as well, but it maxes out when you reach FRA. So unlike retirement benefits, there are no additional gains to be had by delaying spousal benefits until age 70.

That said, if you qualify for both a retirement and spousal benefit, the Social Security Administration automatically gives you the larger of the two. If you’re not sure which that will be, the my Social Security account again has tools that can help you estimate your benefits at all possible claiming ages.

Talk with your spouse and figure out when each of you plans to apply for benefits. Once you know how much to expect in benefits, you can understand how much you’ll need to save for retirement on your own.

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