Divorce and Social Security…know your options, by Janet Bouma


If you are currently divorced, and  were married for more than 10 years before divorcing, you may qualify for spousal benefits based on her ex-husband’s work record, as  long as you are least 62 and unmarried. Your ex-spouse  needs  to be eligible for benefits (age 62), but he/she doesn’t need to be receiving them, if you have been divorced for at least 2 years.  But here’s where it gets strategic. You, the ex-spouse, can choose to file for your spousal benefit at your full retirement age,  let your own benefit earned delayed credits from your age 66 until age 70, and then switch over to your own benefit. Delayed Credits earn 8% per year + COLAs—that’s not chump change! Spousal benefits are available to any and all ex-wives, and the husband’s benefit is not reduced. (or vice versa, Social Security is gender neutral.)

If you were married to two spouses for 10 or more  years, and are not remarried, you can choose from either of their benefits. Be careful when you are applying, and make sure you restrict your application to your spousal benefit, only, at the time of application. If your own benefit is higher, the Social Security worker will give you your benefit, and you will lose out on the spousal benefit.

If your ex-spouse is deceased, you are eligible for 100% of his/her survivor benefit, if you are age 60, and not remarried. You can take that benefit early; it will be reduced, but your own benefit won’t be reduced, if your strategy is to let your benefit grow, and  switch over to claim it at a later time.  A rule of thumb is always delay the bigger benefit.

There is much to know and various strategies to employ. Stay tuned for our upcoming workshop:  Social Security and Divorce…what you need to know