5 Social Security Tips Divorcees Should Know

5 Social Security Tips Divorcees Should Know

September 3, 2018

By Jeremy Reif, CRPS®, Financial Advisor and Owner of Point Wealth Management

As wonderful as marriage can be, there’s no denying the fact that around 50% of marriages in the United States end in divorce. (1) Your life may change drastically after a divorce, but one thing many people don’t realize is that divorce can also affect your Social Security and retirement outlook. In general, the longer you were married holds more weight in the government’s eyes, with ten years being the magic number. So if you were married more than ten years before your divorce, here are five Social Security facts that you should keep in mind in order to make the best decisions for your retirement finances.

1. You Are Still Eligible For A Spousal Benefit

In order to qualify, your marriage must have lasted at least ten years, you must have been divorced at least two years, and the dependent spouse cannot have remarried. If you want to explore the option of taking a spousal benefit instead of your own, you must be at least 62 and your personal benefit must not be higher than your ex-spouse’s.

2. Some Documents Are Not Binding

Many times, in the heat of the moment, divorcees sign documents just to close the door and move on from an unpleasant situation. In fact, some attorneys will draft a clause stating that the divorcee in question surrenders their rights to their ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits. However, if you meet the qualifications listed in fact number 1, this divorce decree is not enforceable. If you signed away your rights and now regret it, you can still access your ex-spouse’s benefits.

3. Your Claiming Strategy Doesn’t Affect Your Ex-Spouse

Many people don’t realize that their ex-spouse’s claiming strategy has no bearing on their own benefits. Payments made to a divorced spouse on their ex-spouse’s record do not reduce payments for the ex-spouse or their new spouse if they have remarried. Please note, this is entirely different than if the divorce decree states that part of one’s Social Security benefits must be paid to the ex-spouse.

4. Widow Benefits Are Worth Looking Into

Most divorced spouses can collect their own Social Security while their ex-spouse is alive, but can then apply for a higher widow benefit when the ex-spouse dies. That does not necessarily mean that the deceased ex-spouse’s benefit will be higher than your own, but it’s an option to explore if you find yourself in this situation.

5.  Payment Rules Don’t Change

A good rule of thumb to remember is that the same payment rules apply to divorced spouses and widows as to current spouses and widows, as long as you meet the requirements in fact number 1.

Create Your Social Security Claiming Strategy

Planning for retirement can be complicated. Adding a divorce or death to the situation can only make things more complicated. At Point Wealth Management, we can help you calculate your potential benefits and determine strategies to make sure you receive the benefits to which you are entitled. If you’re ready to take this step, schedule a call and meet me virtually.

About Jeremy Reif, CRPS®

Jeremy Reif is an independent financial advisor with more than a decade of experience in the financial services industry. He is also the owner of Point Wealth, LLC, an independent financial planning and investment management firm. With advanced credentials and training in retirement planning and financial planning, Jeremy focuses on helping individuals and families pursue financial independence. Regardless of the services he’s providing, he focuses on talking openly about financial planning, the industry, common questions about retirement planning, and more to help everyday investors gain more confidence in their financial opportunities. Based in Wausau, Wisconsin, Jeremy serves clients throughout the state and can work virtually with clients throughout the country. To learn more, visit http://pointwealthmanagement.com and connect with Jeremy on LinkedIn.

Investment Advisory Services offered through Retirement Wealth Advisors, (RWA) a Registered Investment Advisor. Point Wealth Management, TCM, and RWA are not affiliated. Securities offered through TCM Securities, Inc. Members FINRA-SIPC. Material discussed is meant for general/informational purposes only and it is not to be construed as tax, legal, or investment advice. Although the information has been gathered from sources believed to be reliable, please note that individual situations can vary, therefore, the information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice. Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Diversification does not ensure against loss.  Investing involves risk including the potential loss of principal. No investment strategy can guarantee a profit or protect against loss in periods of declining values. Opinions expressed are subject to change without notice and are not intended as investment advice or to predict future performance. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial professional before making any investment decision. 

This information is designed to provide general information on the subjects covered, it is not, however, intended to provide specific legal or tax advice and cannot be used to avoid tax penalties or to promote, market, or recommend any tax plan or arrangement. Please note that Point Wealth Management and its affiliates do not give legal or tax advice. You are encouraged to consult your tax advisor or attorney.


(1) https://www.mckinleyirvin.com/Family-Law-Blog/2012/October/32-Shocking-Divorce-Statistics.aspx

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