By AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor Russell Gloor
Dear Rusty: Two years ago, after 34 years of marriage, my wife divorced me. She was a full time homemaker most of those years. Is she entitled to half of my Social Security benefit when I collect at age 62? She currently gets half my pension from work, and having her also take half of my Social Security benefit would kill me financially. Signed: Going Broke
Dear Broke: Yes, because you were married for more than 10 years, when she becomes 62 your ex-wife will be entitled to receive Social Security spousal benefits based upon your work record (even if she didn’t work). What she gets, however, will not be taken from or otherwise affect your Social Security benefit amount.
If your ex waits until her own full retirement age to apply, she can get 50% of your Primary Insurance Amount (PIA) – the amount you will be entitled to at your full retirement age. This is true even if you apply earlier at age 62. But if she starts spousal benefits before she reaches her full retirement age, her benefit amount will be reduced. Assuming her full retirement age is 66, if she applies for spousal benefits when she’s 62 she’ll only receive about 35%, rather than 50%, of your PIA. Also, you don’t have to be already collecting retirement benefits in order for your ex-wife to collect her spousal benefits; you only have to be eligible to collect. But no matter what your ex-spouse receives as a result of your marriage, the benefit you receive will not be affected and you will still get the full amount of Social Security that you are entitled to at the age you start collecting.
Please note that if you start your own benefit at age 62 as you say you intend, it will be reduced to about 74% of what it would be if you waited and applied at your full retirement age (which I assume is about 66). This is not meant to discourage you from applying early if your circumstances demand it, but only to make you aware that taking your Social Security benefit early will result in a permanent reduction in the amount you receive.