Ask Larry: Can My Ex Receive A Divorced Spousal Benefit When She Turns 62?

Today’s column addresses questions about early divorced spousal benefits, what month to start benefits in order to receive full delayed retirement credits (DRCs) and the family maximum’s effect on surviving child benefits. Larry Kotlikoff is a Professor of Economics at Boston University and the founder and president of Economic Security Planning, Inc, which markets Maximize My Social Security and MaxiFi Planner.

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Can My Ex Receive A Divorced Spousal Benefit When She Turns 62?

Hi Larry, I reach my full retirement age of 66 in September and will take my Social Security retirement benefits then. My ex who I was married to for 20 years turns 62 in October. Can she receive half of my benefit at that time? She is employed on a part time basis and would not meet the income penalty threshold. Thanks, Phil

Hi Phil, Your ex’s potential divorced spousal benefit rate wouldn’t amount to a full half of your benefit amount if she applies at age 62. Unreduced divorced spousal benefits are calculated at 50% of the worker’s primary insurance amount (PIA) if the divorced spouse claims the benefits at full retirement age (FRA) or later, however, the unreduced amount would be reduced by roughly 30% to 35% if claimed at age 62. The exact percentage reduction would depend on the divorced spouse’s year of birth. A person’s PIA is equal to their Social Security retirement benefit rate if they start drawing at full retirement age (FRA).

Furthermore, your ex couldn’t apply for divorced spousal benefits without also being deemed to file for her own Social Security retirement benefits at the same time. As a result, she could only qualify for divorced spousal benefits if 50% of your primary insurance amount (PIA) is higher than her own PIA.

Also, just to be clear, divorced spousal benefits are auxiliary benefits. If your ex qualifies for divorced spousal benefits from your record, it will not affect your Social Security benefits. Before filing for your benefits, you may want to use my company’s software — Maximize My Social Security or MaxiFi Planner — to fully explore all of your options so that you can determine the best strategy for maximizing your benefits. Social Security calculators provided by other companies or non-profits may provide proper suggestions if they were built with extreme care. Best, Larry


Which Month Should I Start My Retirement Benefits In Order To Receive My Maximum Monthly Rate?

Hi Larry, I have looked for an answer to this and can’t find it. Even talking to Social Security they were too focused on when the first check would be sent to actually answer my question. I turn 70 in August. I’ve read on the SSA website some bits of information that says you have to be 70 for the entire month. Is that true?

Since my birthdate is not on the first of August, that means that September is the first month I am 70 for the entire month and therefore I should start my retirement in September, not August, correct? If I put August down as the start date for my retirement, I would be loosing out on the maximum monthly payout I am eligible for, correct?

Seems like a straight forward question. i don’t care when the first check shows up. Since I’ve waited till 70 I don’t want to mess up my application and therefore shortchange my monthly benefit because I accidentally started prematurely. Thanks, Chris

Hi Chris, The straightforward answer is that you’ll receive your full age 70 rate if you claim your benefits in August. You don’t need to be 70 for an entire month in order to be eligible for your maximum benefit rate for that month. The last month that you can receive delayed retirement credits (DRC) is for the month prior to the month you reach 70, even if you reach 70 on the 31st day of a month. So if you were to choose to start your benefits September rather than August, you’d just be passing up a full monthly benefit payment for nothing in return.

For other people who may be reading this answer I should clarify two things. One, Social Security pays benefits a month behind, so Social Security benefit payments for the month of August are due to be paid in September. And, two, Social Security considers a person to have reached their next age on the day prior to their birthday. So, for example, a person born on August 1 1950 would be considered to have reached 70 on July 30 2020. And such a person would want to claim their Social Security retirement benefits no later than July 2020. However, since you were apparently born later in August 1950, you’d want to claim benefits effective with August 2020 in order to receive your maximum monthly Social Security retirement benefit rate. Best, Larry


Will My Daughter’s Benefits Go Up When Her Half Brother Stops Getting Benefits?

Hi Larry, My daughter who 6 and her half brother who is 18 receive survivor benefits from their deceased dad. Her half brother turned 18 in April and will graduate in August. Will my daughters benefits go up? Thanks, Shelly

Hi Shelly, Assuming that those two children are the only people receiving benefits on their deceased father’s Social Security record, then the answer is no. Each eligible surviving child of a deceased worker can receive a maximum of up to 75% of the worker’s Primary Insurance Amount (PIA), which is equal to what their retirement benefit would be at their full retirement age (FRA).

The family maximum benefit (FMB) that can be paid based on a deceased worker’s record is always at least 150% of their PIA, so the benefit amounts paid to survivors of the deceased would only be reduced due to the FMB if more than two survivors are receiving benefits. Therefore it sounds like your daughter is probably already receiving her maximum possible survivor rate, in which case her half brother’s entitlement ending won’t have any effect on her benefit amount. Best, Larry


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