What Divorced Retirees Should Know About Social Security

NEW YORK (TheStreet) – Your marriage may be over, but there's still a chance Social Security will pay you for the years you put in.

What workers and retirees don't know about their Social Security benefits is staggering. According to a survey from financial firm Franklin Templeton, roughly 39% of Americans have no idea how much of their income Social Security will replace, with 37% unsure Social Security will provide the income they're expecting. A full 22% don't know when they should take their Social Security benefit, which is why 59% do so before full retirement age. Of that group, only 21% took the benefit because they needed it. A whopping 42% did so simply because they were eligible, which cut into the benefits they received.

“Conventional thinking and attitudes about what it means to retire are changing,” says Michael Doshier, vice president of retirement marketing for Franklin Templeton Investments. “By taking action now — via saving and planning for retirement — individuals can help ensure that they're able to embrace this next phase of life. They can also reduce the stress increasingly associated with not having enough money to retire.”

Divorcees are particularly adept at leaving money on the table when they don't have to. Mike Greenwald, partner at Friedman LLP, notes that Social Security Administration rules entitle a divorced spouse to a formers spouse's earnings if the two were married for at least 10 years and the spouse claiming benefits is unmarried. Even if the one former spouse is remarried and is still ineligible for Social Security, the other spouse can claim benefits just as long as he or she is 62 and has been divorced from the other spouse for at least two years.

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