Social Security for 70’s Child

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Social Security for 70's Child

I’m 58 and I’ve been married and divorced twice. The first time, I was 18 and divorced when I was turning 20. Even though we were only married about 2 years we had 2 children together during this short union. The second marriage lasted 28 years.

Can I pick between the 2 ex’s Social Security benefits for whoever made the most money? The first ex-husband remarried and had 2 more children with the second wife. Would I have to share/split with wife #2?

I realize this is complicated, but you gotta love the 70’s!

Dear Daughter of the 70’s,

The rules require that a marriage last at least 10 years for you to be eligible for spousal benefits. Unfortunately, this means your first husband’s earnings record is no help to you.

Since your second marriage lasted well over this 10-year minimum, you are eligible for spousal benefits. As long as your ex is still alive, age 62 is the earliest you can begin to claim these benefits. If your ex has died, you become eligible, like any other widow, to claim benefits beginning at age 60 (50 if disabled)

Just remember that if you claim early, you’ll accept a lower Social Security check for the duration of his life. But you can expect to receive an increase when he dies, at which point your benefits change from spousal–which is no more than 50% of his basic benefit–to survivor benefits, which is 100% of his basic benefit.

For example, if your ex’s age 66 benefit is $1,800 per month, you would be eligible for up to $900 a month if you begin benefits at age 66, or $630 if you begin them at age 62. However, this check will bump up to $1,800 per month (plus COLA adjustments) when your divorced spouse dies.

Even if your husband remarries, this wouldn’t limit your own benefits. Having more than one eligible spouse does not reduce the amount each is eligible to receive. As a review of multiple marriage family benefits, I share my transcript of the Social Security consultation I did with King Henry VIII regarding the benefits of his many wives.

If you remarry, you lose the ability to collect Social Security benefits from your ex. Instead, you collect benefits from your current spouse. The one exception to this remarriage rule is related to survivor benefits. If your spouse dies and you are over 60 when you remarry, you don’t lose your survivor benefits.

Make sure you do your homework before filing for Social Security. If your financial advisor is not an expert in this area, consider using an optimizer like the ones available at Social Security Solutions before making one of the most critical financial decisions of your life.

Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons.

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Matthew Illian was a Wealth Manager at Marotta Wealth Management from 2007 to 2016. He specialized in small business consulting, college planning, and retirement plans.