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Divorcees, You Could Be Owed Extra Social Security benefits?

The general consensus is that Social Security replaces around 40% of your pre-retirement income. The reality is that half of all single people depend on their Social Security benefits to replace close to 90% of their pre-retirement income, says the Social Security Administration (SSA). From the start, the only way for you to survive retirement is to cut your living expenses to 40% of your working income.


For married couples, the outlook is better. One spouse, usually the one who may never have worked or earned less than the other spouse, is able to receive Social Security benefits based on the other spouse’s work record. Because that spouse is married, his or her Social Security benefits will be higher than a single person. According to the SSA, only 21% of married couples depend on their checks for at least 90% of their retirement income.


If you are single and divorced, in some circumstances, you too can receive Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record, even if your ex has remarried. You may be surprised to learn that there are few eligibility requirements you’ll have to meet in order to claim benefits based on your ex’s work record. To qualify for Social Security benefits based on your ex’s work record:


  •     Your marriage must have lasted at least 10 years.


  •     You must be single at the time you seek Social Security benefits based on your ex-spouse’s work record.


  •     The amount you receive in Social Security benefits based on your own work record must be less than the amount you’d receive in divorce benefits based on your ex-spouse’s record.


There are, of course, some caveats to remember when claiming Social Security benefits based on your ex’s word record.


  •     You must be at least 62 in order to start claiming benefits.


  •     You must wait for your ex-spouse to begin claiming benefits before you can start receiving your benefits. (If you have been divorced, for at least 2 continuous years, and your ex is eligible to receive benefits but has not started claiming them yet – you can start claiming benefits based on your ex’s work record.


  •     All other Social Security benefits rules apply. You can only receive the full benefit amount if you claim benefits at your full retirement age – which is either 66, 66 plus a few months, or 67, depending on the year you were born. If you claim benefits between 62 and your full retirement age, your benefit amount will be reduced for all of your Social Security benefits.
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