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Lane
Lane, JD,CFP, MBA, CRPS
Category: Social Security
Satisfied Customers: 10106
Experience:  Law Degree, specialization in Tax Law and Corporate Law, CFP and MBA, Providing Financial, Social Security & Tax advice since 1986
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I have been receiving SS since 2006. At that time I would

Customer Question

I have been receiving SS since 2006. At that time I would get more money by taking my own SS money, at that time. Now I wonder if I would get more
JA: The Retirement Accountant will know how to help. Please tell me more, so we can help you best.
Customer: SS money if I took half of my Ex husbands SS money How can I find out if this is possible.
JA: Is there anything else important you think the Retirement Accountant should know?
Customer: Well we were married 2 months short of 28 years Don't know if that matters.
Submitted: 3 months ago.
Category: Social Security
Expert:  Lane replied 3 months ago.

Hi, I can help here. My name's Lane

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There re a couple of issues: (1) Social Security, although you cannot stack benefits, will always pay the higher benefit (actually a combination of your benefit and the higher benefit to take you up TO that higher amount), and (2) if you took your own retirement early (before full retirement age) a formula called excess spousal benefit, comes into play.

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Normally the spouse's benefit is 50% of the spouse's Full Retirement Age (FRA) benefit amount, reduced if the spouse claiming the spousal is filing for benefits early.

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But again, if one spouse is already receiving their own benefits, and later becomes eligible for a spousal benefit, there is a formula that is used to determine what amount of spousal benefit (if any) they may receive.

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Let's work through an example. Lets say that the younger spouse claimed at 62. Her FRA amount was $800, but because she claimed early she received $600 per month in benefits. ($800/.75 represents the reduction she receives for claiming before her FRA.) The older spouse will claim when he turns 66. His PIA is $2,100.

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To get the amount that can be added to your wifes benefit when filing for spousal benefits, take the older spouse'sFRA amount divided by 2, minus the younger spouse's FRA amount. $2,100/2 = $1,050 - $800 = $250.

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When her husband files for benefits and she becomes eligible for a spousal, that $250 gets added to what she is currently receiving so her monthly benefit will go from $600 to $850 at that time.

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If she had waited until her own FRA to file benefits, she would have received the full spousal benefit of $1,050, as that would have been higher than her own FRA benefit amount of $800.

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Of course she would have had to forego the first four years of benefits in order to then receive the higher amount. In this particular case, it likely made sense for her to file early.

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Hope that helps,

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Please let me know if you have any questions at all, before rating me

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If this HAS helped, and you DON’T have other questions … I'd appreciate a positive rating (using the stars or faces on your screen, and then clicking “submit")

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Thank you!

Lane

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I hold a law degree, (Juris Doctorate), with concentration in Tax Law, Estate law & Corporate law, an MBA, with specialization in financial accounting & tax, a BBA, and CFP & CRPS designations, as well - I’ve been providing financial, Social Security/Medicare, estate, corporate, non-profit, and tax advice, since 1986.

Customer: replied 3 months ago.
I guess I did give you enough information to answer your question to my satisfaction. I retired in 2006 at age 65 1/2. My former husband had already retired the year before. So I did not take an early retirement. At the time I retired I could collect a little more money on my own social security than on his. We were married 28 years and divorced in 1990. What I want to know is if I could change my Social Security money to his, if I would receive more money. I don't know if this is possible or if I should just go to the local SS office and set down in front of a real person and explain in person what I am trying to ask you.
Expert:  Lane replied 3 months ago.

Yes you can switch ... (Thanks for the additional information... now we know that the issue around supplemental spousal benefit doesn't apply)

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However, the first issue - that social security benefits cannot be stacked - still applies. And when you put that together with the fact that the spousal - and divorced spouse - benefit is only 50% of his FRA (Full Retirement Age) benefit, I think you have your answer.

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Said differently, if your benefit is close to his at all, then switching to spousal (or divorced spouse, it's the same benefit) - 50% of his benefit - would only reduce your benefit.

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Also, be careful about trusting the first thing that's said at the local field offices these days. Things have become so bad that my firm has taken to sending the applicable sections of the POMS manual (internal Program Operations Manual) with clients when they go to meetings at the local office (this likely has to do with the curtbacks over the last several years)

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https://secure.ssa.gov/poms.nsf/home!readform

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But again, benefits cannot be stacked, SSA will always pay the higher benefit when it is available, but never one on top of the other....SO, the spousal benefit (50% of his FRA benefit) would have to be higher than your full benefit for this to make sense.

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Does that help?

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Let me know. You can read about that here: https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/divspouse.html

Expert:  Lane replied 3 months ago.

Please let me know if you have any questions at all, before rating me ...

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I hope you’ll rate me (using those stars, or faces on your screen, by clicking submit) based on thoroughness and accuracy, rather than any good news / bad news content. Otherwise I’m working for no crediting at all here.

Thank you!

Lane

I have a law degree, (Juris Doctorate), with concentration in Tax Law, Estate law & Corporate law, an MBA, with specialization in financial accounting & tax, a BBA, and CFP & CRPS designations, as well - I’ve been providing financial, Social Security/Medicare, estate, corporate, non-profit, and tax advice, since 1986.

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