Hi, thanks for submitting your question today. I'll answer your questions each as follows:
1) X works for 31 years and then gets laid off at age 56. X has been unable to get another job. If X cannot get a job before 66 2 month "normal retirement age" does the monthly retirement benefit listed on X's social security statement go down? If so, if there any way to figure out what the benefits would be at normal retirement age? -- If X elects to retire before normal retirement age her benefits are decreased. X does not have to retire before normal retirement age, but she can if she elects to. The best place to go to determine your benefits is the social security website retirement planning tool - at this link
2) X is in the process of getting a divorce from H. X assumes her H's monthly retirement benefit will be larger than hers assuming he continues to be able to work until normal retirement age. X and H were married for 26 years (29 until final divorce decree) and X has not re-married. I read something online that suggests X could somehow benefit from H's retirement benefits? Is that correct and, if so, how does that work?- Correct, x in this instance could apply for H's higher benefits, because she meets all the criteria required to do so - marriage in excess of 10 years, not remarried, 62 years of age or more, X's entitled benefits are less than H's. The way it works is X can choose to take a combination of hers and her and H's benefits and thereby she will be paid out a total of H's due benefit per month (reduced for age if under normal retirement age), or she can take her portion now and get H's full portion later on when she reaches normal retiement age (so she'd get her reduced amount now, then earn H's normal retirement age benefits at full retirement age.
3)X earned relatively large salary for first 26 years of employment and then a much lower salary for her last 5 years of employment. Does that adversely impact the amount of retirement benefits? -- Yes it will because Soc Sec uses 35 years of your earnings to calculate an average from which it derives your benefits - being that you have 31 years of earnings, all these years will be used and these lower 5 years will drag down your average earnings computation a bit.
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