Question

My ex is turning 60 in November this year, I turn 62 in August. Can I claim 50% of his Social Security benefit when I turn 62 and then switch to my full benefit at my FRA or the higher benefit at age 70? We were married 17 years, have been divorced for more than 2 years, and I have not remarried.

Answer

“Social Security has many moving parts,” says Deanne Phillips, CFP®, CDFA®, of Annex Wealth Management, “and there are a few strategies you are describing in your question, so for clarity I’m going to break those down first.”

Social Security does entitle someone to spousal benefits, Phillips explains, whether married or divorced, provided the parameters are met. To qualify on an ex-spouse’s benefit, you need to not be remarried and the marriage needs to have lasted at least 10 years. You would be eligible then for the higher of your own benefit or roughly half of theirs. If you claim benefits before your full retirement age that benefit is reduced. “In your case, says Phillips, “turning 62 in 2021, your full retirement age is 66 and 10 months. You will get less if you start early or more if you delay until later.”

However, you both need to be at least age 62 to be eligible to collect, she notes, and the benefit you get from his record would need to be greater than your own. Your ex-spouse does not need to be currently claiming benefits, but they must be entitled to do so. “So in your situation, you would need to wait until he turns age 62 and then you would be eligible for half his benefit, reduced since you will not have hit your own full retirement age,” Phillips says. (The reduction of benefit is based on your age, not his, which is good news in your case since he’s two years younger than you.)

“Unfortunately,” she notes, “in this scenario, you can’t then change to your own benefit at age 70.” You are describing a strategy where someone files a restricted application for a spousal benefit and then changes to their own at age 70. This type of application can only be done by those reaching full retirement age and having been born on or before January 1, 1954.

“If an ex-spouse is deceased before a person claims,” adds Phillips, “that changes things and qualifies them for survivor benefits on their ex’s record, as early as age 60 potentially, with the ability to switch to their own benefits at age 70.” 

Assistant editor Kim McSheridan assisted with this report.

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Email Robert.Powell@maven.io. 

Question

My ex is turning 60 in November this year, I turn 62 in August. Can I claim 50% of his Social Security benefit when I turn 62 and then switch to my full benefit at my FRA or the higher benefit at age 70? We were married 17 years, have been divorced for more than 2 years, and I have not remarried.

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