#238 Social Security Questions Answered


Since her last appearance on the show, I have been saving your Social Security questions for nationally recognized SS expert, Mary Beth Franklin. Mary Beth is a contributing editor at Investment News and writes regularly about the latest research and thought leadership on retirement income planning. You can follow her on Twitter here and download her book, “Maximizing Your Social Security Benefitshere.

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Thank goodness for Mary Beth, because it is so difficult to wade through the SS system’s 2,800 rules! The part of the program was devoted to the strategies around claiming SS benefits on the record of an ex-spouse.

The basic rule is that you must have been married for at least 10 years before you got divorced and you must be currently single, which also could include being widowed from a subsequent spouse. We fielded a lot of questions about making the claim retroactively, but Mary Beth notes that you must be at or beyond full retirement age (FRA), the maximum retroactive benefit is six months.

There were a lot of questions about whether an ex can claim as early as 62. The answer is yes, with a caveat. You can claim on your ex, but other SS rules apply, so you would have to claim a reduced benefit on your own record and then if ½ of your ex’s benefit is greater than your own, you can collect the difference.

Here’s an example: Jack (67) and Jill (62) were married for 20 years and then divorced. Jill would be entitled to $1,000 per month, if she were to wait until her FRA, but instead, she claims at 62, which reduces her monthly benefit to $750—remember, if you claim early, the reduction is permanent! Let’s assume that Jack has claimed his $2500/month benefit at his FRA. If Jill had waited until her own FRA, she would have been entitled to half of his benefit, which would be $1250/month. BUT, because she is claiming at 62, her share of his benefit is also reduced, so she would only be entitled to $875/month. From the perspective of SS, Jill would be entitled to two benefits at age 62: her $750 + $125 from her ex-husband, for a total of $875.

Mary Beth also covered survivor benefits; how to execute a Social Security “Do-Over”; some of the rules around SSDI; the two rules that may limit your Social Security benefits: the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO); and of course, Mary Beth’s GOLDEN RULE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY!

Thanks to everyone who participated this week, especially Mark, the Best Producer in the World. Here's how to contact us:

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