If you are currently divorced and thinking about filing for Social Security retirement benefits, it’s worth taking some time to learn more about this important benefit and the filing options that are available only to divorced spouses. The filing decision you make today is likely to have a permanent impact on the Social Security benefits you receive throughout your retirement.
Timing is a key variable for everyone. Collecting benefits early, before you’ve reached full retirement age, permanently reduces your monthly benefit by as much as 25%. Of course, there may be good reasons for filing before your full retirement age. Health concerns, a reduced life expectancy and financial need are all important considerations. As the chart below shows, your full retirement age depends on the year you were born.
Former spouses may have a variety of filing options available to them. In our example, we compare two of these options to demonstrate the difference filing strategy can make.
As a divorced spouse you may be eligible to receive a “spousal” benefit based on your ex-spouse’s work history. It doesn’t matter if your former spouse has remarried. It also doesn’t matter if your ex-spouse has filed for his or her Social Security benefits – as long as he or she is eligible for benefits. To file a claim for a spousal benefit as an ex-spouse, you will have to show that you:
- Are at least 62 years old;
- Were married for 10 years or longer; and
- Are currently unmarried.
If your ex-spouse has not yet filed for his or her Social Security benefit, you will have to show that you have been divorced for at least two years at the time you file for a spousal benefit.
Remember…it’s your Social Security and your decision
For simplicity, the following example reflects only a limited range of filing options and variables. In fact, there are many factors that could have an impact on the amount of your Social Security retirement benefit. The benefit filing option you choose should be based on the realities of your personal situation.
No matter how and when you choose to begin collecting your benefit, it’s a good idea to contact the Social Security Administration ahead of time. That way, you can get the information you need to make an informed filing decision.
At age 61, Loren is still working. She and ex-husband Mark were married for 18 years and have been divorced for five. Loren wants to retire at age 65 and begin taking her Social Security and pension benefits at that time.
At her full retirement age of 66, Loren will be eligible to receive a monthly Social Security benefit of $1,400, plus any cost-of-living (COLA) increases.
Loren’s former husband, Mark, is 64 and has not yet filed for his Social Security benefits. If he files for benefits at his full retirement age of 66, he will be eligible to receive a monthly benefit of $2,400, plus any COLA increases.
Our example assumes that Loren is no longer working at the time she begins receiving benefits.
Take the guesswork out of your Social Security filing decision.
Your Social Security retirement benefit is too important for guesswork. Learn more about your retirement benefits at the www.socialsecurity.gov or contact your local Social Security office.
One of the most important steps you can take is to set up your own “My Social Security” page on www.socialsecurity.gov. This is an easy and secure way to view your estimated benefits and earnings history. The Social Security Administration will use this information when it calculates your benefit, so be sure that it accurately reflects your work history.
We’re here to help.
Once you’ve set up your own Social Security page, your financial professional can help you explore different filing strategies. With this information, you will be better able to make an informed Social Security filing decision.