Collecting your ex’s Social Security

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Q. I am approaching 62 years of age, was married to my former spouse for more than 10 years and have not remarried. Am I eligible to collect on his Social Security without a reduced payment since I am not full retirement age?
— Trying to understand

A. You may be able to collect on your ex-husband’s benefits, but you might want to think twice before you do.

If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse’s record — even if your spouse has remarried — under certain circumstances, said Jerry Lynch, a certified financial planner with JFL Total Wealth Management in Boonton.

You need to be unmarried and age 62 or older. Your ex-spouse must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits, and the benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work must be less than the benefit you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work, he said.

So if you draw on Social Security at age 62 — something Lynch highly discourages — you will start with your benefit first. If his benefit is higher, you will get that benefit.

Lynch wants you to consider this before you file for any benefits:

“When Social Security was originally set up at age 65, average life expectancy was 64,” he said. “Now your life expectancy is in the mid 80s.”

Unless you have a boatload of money, Lynch said, you are much better off deferring your Social Security benefit until age 70 because, he said, it will almost double the benefit from age 62.

“The most common reason people start claiming at age 62 is `I need the money.’” he said. “At 62, generally you are still healthy and can work. If you really need the money now, work another job because you will really need a higher Social Security benefit when you are not working.”

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This post was first published in January 2018. 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.