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Social Security questions on ex husband and ex wife

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Date Add : 09-24-2009 

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Social Security Question:

Spousal benefits

Social Security Answer:

My question relates to what happens when one spouse (the lower-paid one) takes benefits early and the other spouse (the higher-paid one) waits until FRA to start benefits. I keep getting conflicting answers on this, even from the SSA itself.

I will plug some numbers in here to use as an example: Assume my wife's FRA amount is $500 and mine is $2000. If she starts taking benefits at age 62 based on her own record, her monthly amount will be 70% of $500, i.e. $350. That's clear. But, when I start taking my $2000 monthly benefits at FRA 66, what combined benefit amount is she now entitled to? $1000 (50% of my FRA amount) or $700 (70% of my FRA amount)? Nobody seems to be able to give me a straight answer on this.

Support Replied ~ 07-17-2009 18:43:08

Dear Patrick:
Wife's benefits are figured using your FRA. You are correct about your wife getting approximately 70% of her own amount. Now, she cannot receive wife's benefits without you collecting benefits. So when you decide to file, SS will take 1/2 of your
FRA and subtract her FRA ( which is $500 according to your figures) and reduce it for whatever age she is at that time and add it to her benefit amount ($350 or whatever it is after COLA increases). And remember that ex-wifes do not have to wait for you to collect for them to collect. You just have to be 62. So from what you are saying, your ex-wife is going to start collecting now, and your wife is going to wait until you retire (which she has to) to collect wife's benefits.

Your ex-wife will receive approximately $730.00 if she files now and your wife, depending on what her own amount is, will be eligible for at least half of your FRA at her age 66. You did not give me much info on your present wife, but if she never worked, she will get 1/2 of your FRA at 66. Remember, a wife does not get credit for delayed retirement credits (increases to your benefit amount because you worked after 66) until she is a widow.....Let me know if this is clear to you...If not, give me a time and I will call you.......Carol
Your Comment ~ 07-17-2009 19:08:18

Hi Carol,

A small misunderstanding: There is no ex-wife. The question is just about my present (and only) wife and I. We are fairly close in age, and the question is, if she retires and starts taking her own benefit at age 62, what effect (if any) will that have on her combined benefit if I wait to claim until age 66?

If I understand you correctly, assuming for simplicity we are exactly the same age, then it would work like this: Claiming At 62, she would receive $350. Then at 66 when I start claiming, she would be eligible for a spousal benefit of $1000 (1/2 my FRA) minus $500 (her full FRA), i.e. $500, plus her ongoing own $350 benefit, for a total of $850. So I would receive $2000 and she would receive $850.

However, if she also waited until 66, then I would receive $2000 and she would receive $1000 (half my FRA plus her full FRA).

Am I correct on that? If not, please call me after 9:00am Monday (Pacific time). Thanks much, Patrick Hayes.

Support Replied ~ 07-18-2009 20:55:32

Dear Patrick:
Yes, you are correct. But remember, if she is not working over the amt allowed,
you would be giving up $350 a month for 48 months. Multiply that and then divide that by $150 to see how many months after age 66 it would take to make up the difference. I get a little over 9 years. You know finances, so I will leave it up to you.
With today's interest rates, it might be to your advantage to leave it in the system
Take care.....Carol

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"Social Security Advisor" is intended to provide accurate and authoritative information with regard to the subject matter covered. It is offered with the understanding that neither the publisher nor the author is engaged in rendering legal, accounting, investment or other professional advice or services.

Information obtained from, including e-mail responses from "Social Security Advisor" should be considered as general educational information. You must never rely upon the advice given here. Your individual situation may not fit the generalizations discussed. Only your local Social Security office can evaluate your individual situation and give you advice.

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