Ask Larry: How Soon Can I Take Social Security Spousal Benefits On My New Spouse’s Record?

Today’s Social Security column addresses questions about how soon benefits may be available based on a new spouse’s record, when divorced spousal benefits may be available and taking widow’s benefits while delaying retirement benefits until 70. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc.

See more Ask Larry answers here.

Have Social Security questions of your own you’d like answered? Ask Larry about Social Security here.

How Soon Can I Take Social Security Spousal Benefits On My New Spouse’s Record?

Hi Larry, I am currently collecting Social Security benefits on my ex’s record. I am going to remarry this year. My new husband is collecting his Social Security retirement benefit. I realize I won’t be able to collect on my ex’s record anymore. How soon after I get married can I expect to start collecting on my new husband’s record? Thanks, Janet

Hi Janet, If you’re currently drawing divorced spousal benefits, then you can potentially qualify for spousal benefits on your new husband’s account as early as the first full month that you’re married.

By the way, your current benefits will only end if you’re collecting divorced spousal benefits. If you’re getting divorced widow’s benefits on his record, then you could continue receiving survivor’s benefits even after you remarry. A remarriage that occurs after a person has turns 60 does not prevent them from qualifying for benefits on the record of a former deceased spouse. Best, Larry

Can I Collect Ex-Spousal Benefits When I Turn 62?

Hi Larry, I was born in 1962 and my ex-spouse was born in 1970. We were married for 12 years. I have not remarried. Can I collect divorced spousal benefits when I hit early retirement at 62 or if I receive SSDI, or do I have to wait until he reaches retirement age (62 or FRA)? If I cannot collect benefits on his record until he reaches retirement age, can I collect my own and then collect his later? Susan

Hi Susan, You couldn’t qualify for divorced spousal benefits until your ex either reaches 62 or starts drawing Social Security retirement or disability (SSDI) benefits.

You could claim your own Social Security retirement benefits as soon as you qualify and later apply for divorced spousal benefits, but you’ll only be eligible for divorced spousal benefits if 50% of your ex’s primary insurance amount (PIA) is more than your own PIA. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing their benefits at full retirement age (FRA).

Furthermore, if you claim reduced Social Security retirement benefits prior to your full retirement age (FRA) and if you later qualify for additional divorced spousal benefits, you’ll be stuck with the early filing reduction.

Your best filing strategy depends on a number of different factors, so you may want to consider using my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to ensure your household receives the highest lifetime benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Our software can also confirm your correct benefit amount, ensuring you aren’t being paid too little or too much, which could lead to potential clawbacks due to Social Security’s overpayment to you. Best, Larry

Can I Collect On My Late Husband’s Social Security Now And Wait Until 70 To Collect My Own Benefits?

Hi Larry, I am 65 and work part time. I do not collect Social Security. My husband age 61 recently passed and he was still working full time. We were married for 15 years. Can I collect on his record and wait until age 70 to collect my retirement benefit? Thanks, Sarah

Hi Sarah, I’m sorry for your loss. Yes, you can apply for widow’s benefits now and wait until 70 to claim your own benefits, but until you reach your full retirement age (FRA) some or all of your benefits might need to be withheld depending on how much you are earning.

Your best filing strategy could be either filing for reduced widow’s benefits early and then switching to your own record at 70, or filing for reduced retirement benefits on your own record early and then filing for unreduced widow’s benefits at full retirement age (FRA). Normally, you would want to start out drawing the lower benefit first and then switch to the higher record when it reaches its highest potential rate.

Whatever you do, though, don’t delay contacting Social Security to make an appointment to apply for benefits. Failure to apply for benefits timely could result in a loss of benefits. Best, Larry

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