Social Security benefits and marriage

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Q. My wife thinks we would get more Social Security if we’re not married. Is that true?
— Husband

A. Determining when and how to take Social Security benefits is a very personal issue, so it’s tough to determine for sure without knowing more about your circumstances.

But if either of you was married previously, it’s possible that you may have been able to collect more if you were not currently married.

If an individual does not remarry after their spouse passes, they are eligible to collect a survivor’s benefit at age 60, said Stephen Craffen of Stonegate Wealth Management in Oakland.

“That survivor’s benefit does not affect their own benefit, which is based on their working history,” Craffen said. “Therefore, they could claim the widow or widower’s benefit at 60 and delay their own to age 70, for example.”

Craffen said if a divorced individual does not remarry after being married for 10 years, they are eligible to receive a benefit based on their former spouse’s earnings record without affecting either person’s own benefit.

So this could be true.

Craffen recommends you contact a financial advisor who is very familiar with Social Security to consider the best “claiming” strategy for you. Typically, advisors may use sophisticated software to help decide on the best strategy, he said.

Make sure you have your most up-to-date earnings statement. You can get that at the Social Security Administration’s web site.

Email your questions to moc.p1563641153leHye1563641153noMJN1563641153@ksA1563641153.

This post was first published in June 2016.

NJMoneyHelp.com presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.