What You Need to Know About Remarrying and Social Security

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Social Security is more than just a source of retirement income. Social Security pays spousal and survivor benefits in addition to disability and children’s benefits.

 

Social Security Benefits

 

However, the math behind these benefits, which can be perplexing on its own, becomes even more complicated if you divorce and then remarry. Although you should consult a tax advisor or the Social Security Administration directly if this applies to you, here are the broad strokes about Social Security benefits you should be aware of if you remarry.

 

What Exactly Are Spousal Benefits?

When you file for Social Security benefits, you are always entitled to the maximum allowable benefit. As a spouse, you are entitled to the greater of your own benefit based on your previous work record or up to 50% of your spouse’s benefit.

This spousal benefit has no bearing on the payout to the primary beneficiary. In other words, if your spouse is eligible for a $2,000 monthly benefit, you may be eligible for up to $1,000 in spousal benefits even if you have never worked a day in your life. As a couple, you could receive up to $3,000 in total.

One of the most intriguing aspects of the spousal benefit is that it applies even if you are divorced, as long as you were married for at least 10 years and are at least 62, the minimum age for filing for retirement benefits.

However, as you’ll see below, the rules for spousal benefits change if you remarry.

What Exactly Are Survivor Benefits?

As a widow or widower, you are entitled to survivor benefits if your spouse is eligible for Social Security retirement benefits and dies. You can apply for these benefits as early as age 60, and you will receive 71% of the deceased’s benefit.

If you wait until full retirement age, which is 67 for people born in 1960 or later, you will be entitled to 100% of the deceased’s benefit. As with spousal benefits, if you were married for at least ten years, you are still entitled to survivor benefits on your ex-record. spouse’s If you are still living with your spouse, you may be eligible for a one-time death benefit of $255.

Because the survivor benefit is usually greater than the spousal benefit, you can change your claim if your spouse dies after you start receiving spousal benefits. If you remarry, the rules for survivor’s benefits, like those for spousal benefits, may change.

 

What Effects Remarriage Has on Your Benefits

Your Social Security benefits will be affected if you remarry. For starters, once you remarry, you are no longer entitled to your ex-spousal spouse’s benefits. Rather, you will be bound to your new spouse’s benefit structure. The same is true for your survivor’s benefits, which will also be lost if you remarry.

However, if you remarry at the age of 60 or later, you can still claim survivor’s benefits based on your ex-record. spouse’s If you remarry before the age of 60 but the marriage ends in divorce, you may be eligible for survivor’s benefits based on your original deceased spouse’s earnings record.

 

Ex-spouses’ Social Security Claiming Strategies

If you will eventually be eligible for retirement benefits based on your own work history, one strategy is to claim survivor’s benefits at age 60 and then wait until age 70 to convert those benefits to your own retirement benefits. Waiting until age 70 increases your own retirement benefit by 8% per year from age 67 to age 70, but you’ll be drawing survivor’s benefits in the meantime while you wait for those credits to kick in.

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However, keep in mind that this only applies if you were still married to the now-deceased spouse or if you remarried after the age of 60.

Time-related strategies can also help you gain an advantage. For example, if you’re thinking about divorce after eight or nine years of marriage, waiting until the 10-year mark may qualify you for spousal benefits. Similarly, if you divorce but can wait until the age of 60 to remarry, you will retain your eligibility for survivor’s benefits based on your former spouse’s work record.

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