The rules of Social Security can be tricky. Let’s put them into people’s terms! Here’s a question from a reader who would like to learn more about obtaining benefits from an ex-spouse. Under what circumstances are you entitled to ex-spouse benefits and how do you know what you’ll get? Read on to find out!
About 10 years ago, I was divorced after 25 years of marriage. I was a stay-at home mom with 4 kids, while my husband worked each day and grew his company to over 60 employees.
Now that the kids have grown, I am no longer receiving child or spousal support and I need help making ends meet. A friend suggested that I could receive my ex husband’s Social Security benefits.
I woud like to know how to do that; and also, if I do get a job, can I still receive his Social Security? Can you please explain this in simple terms for me?
Karen, from Humble, TX
What a great question. Everyone wants to receive their Social Security check, but no one ever thinks that you can draw on your ex-spouse’s Social Security check.
The maximum amount of Social Security benefits one can receive on an ex-spouse’s record is 50% of what your ex-spouse would get at their full retirement age (FRA). The FRA for calendar years 1943 through 1954 is the month you turn 66. For other years’ FRA, take a look at this table from ssa.gov.
Ex-Spouse Social Security Benefits Rules For Qualifying
1. Your divorced spouse must have worked 10 years and paid Social Security (FICA) taxes from their paychecks.
2. Your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.
3. You must be at least 62 to file for benefits (but, don’t forget, at 62 Social Security benefits will be reduced).
4. You must be unmarried when you file. If you remarry, then your benefits from the ex-spouse will stop.
5. Your ex-spouse does not have to file for their own social security benefits for you to be eligible to receive a benefit based on their record.
6. Your relationship with your ex-spouse must be documented. You must provide originals (not copies) of your marriage license, divorce decree, and even death certificate if your ex-spouse has passed.
Estimate what your ex-spouse earned with this calculator.
Many ex-spouses file for the 50% divorced spouse benefit and delay claiming their own. When you postpone taking your own Social Security benefits, each year past your FRA, the government pays you an 8% bonus called the “Delayed Retirement Credit” (DRC).
If your FRA is age 66 and you wait until you reach 70 to begin your own Social Security, then your benefits have been increased by 32%, and can also earn the annual cost-of-living increases that the Social Security benefits have received.
What Happens To Social Security Benefits If You Go Back To Work?
Here is how that story goes: it depends on your age when you are working. Once you have attained your FRA, then you can earn as much as you like.
However, if you are collecting Social Security income before your FRA, Social Security applies the earnings test. If your annual income from wages is more than $19,560 annually in 2022, then your Social Security income is reduced by $1 for every $2 that your wage income exceeds $19,560 annually.
Once your FRA begins, then the earnings test ends. The earnings test is another reason to delay Social Security benefits until after age 66 or your FRA.
Toni Says: Social Security rules are very confusing and understanding them is the key!!
Toni KingContributing Writer
Toni King is an author, columnist, and radio and TV personality who specializes in Medicare, Social Security, and long-term care planning. While conducting a Medicare workshop in 2009, Toni was approached by a member of the audience who had received incorrect information about his Medicare Part B enrollment from Social Security. After taking a couple of days to help the gentleman straighten out his overwhelming problem, Toni’s new mission had become clear. Following more than 27 years as a top sales leader in the Medicare insurance industry, Toni would become an advocate for Americans receiving Medicare. Since then, Toni has devoted her life and career to putting Medicare into “people terms” with the help of her books, consultations, workshops, and website, ToniSays.com. Read more from Toni King.