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Social Security Matters

Ask Rusty - Working & Social Security; Remarried Ex-Spouse

By RUSSELL GLOOR, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor


March 08, 2017
Wednesday PM

(SitNews) - Dear Rusty: I recently turned 62, and have not yet filed for Social Security benefits. At this point my benefit based on my own record would be about $1,000 per month, but since I still work I know I would lose some of what I earn over the $15,000 limit. I read that if you lose some of your benefit because of working you will get it back later. Is this true? If so, how would I get it back?
Signed: Working Girl

jpg RUSSELL GLOOR, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor

RUSSELL GLOOR, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor

Dear Working: Yours is becoming a much more common question as more and more people are choosing to work even after they are entitled to receive Social Security benefits. Social Security's rules say that if you work and are receiving benefits but have not yet reached your full retirement age (which for you is 66) and you earn more than their annual earnings limit, they will "take back" half of everything you earn over the earnings limit (which for 2017 is $16,920). The way they do this is by withholding what you owe from future benefit payments, which could cause you to not receive benefits for a number of months until they recover what you owe. This would happen every year up to the year you turn 66, which would mean that during that working timeframe you would have gone some number of months without receiving Social Security. In the year you turn 66, the amount you can earn is much more generous and the amount they withhold is much less. After you turn age 66 you can earn as much as you like without penalty.

The way you "get back" what they withheld is this: When you reach your full retirement age, Social Security will recalculate your benefit amount taking into account the number of months you did not receive benefits in those working years between age 62 and 66. They will then advance your original start-of-benefits date by the number of months you didn't receive benefits, effectively moving your start date forward and increasing your benefit amount accordingly. If, for example, you originally applied at age 62 and continued to work and, over the course of those years between age 62 and 66, you did not receive benefits for a total of 12 months, when you reached age 66 your benefit start date would be moved to age 63 and instead of receiving the $1,000 per month for the rest of your life, you would get about $1,070. So while they do take away some benefits while you are working, the increase you receive at your full retirement age will last for the rest of your life.

Remarried Ex-Spouse

Dear Rusty: I was married to my husband for 6 years when we divorced in May of 1996. Over the next year or so we felt we had resolved our differences and decided to re-marry in July of 1997. Although we both tried hard, we simply couldn't make it work and so we divorced again for good in September 2000. I've never re-married, but I'm now nearly 62 years of age and wondering: since my ex-husband always made much more money than me, can I collect Social Security as his divorced spouse or do I need to take Social Security based upon my own work record?
Signed: Wondering

Dear Wondering: Social Security's rules state that a divorcee who wants to collect retirement benefits from their ex-spouse's work record must have been married to that person for at least 10 years, must be divorced for at least 2 years (unless your ex-spouse is already collecting benefits), must not now be married, and both the divorcee and their ex-spouse must be at least 62 years old. Your ex-spouse need not already be actually receiving benefits, but he must at least be eligible to receive either Social Security retirement or disability benefits.

Your situation is somewhat unique because you meet most of the criteria, but the total length of time you were actually married to your ex-spouse in your two marriages is only 9 years - 6 the first time and 3 the second time - leaving you apparently short of the 10-years-married rule. But here's some good news: Social Security's rules for divorced spouses also say that if you and your ex-spouse remarry before the end of the year which follows the year you were first divorced, the period of time between marriages counts toward the 10-years-married requirement. Since you first divorced in May of 1996 and then remarried in July of 1997, the time between those dates counts as though you were still married during that time, so the 10-years-married rule is satisfied. In other words, having met all of the criteria, you will be eligible to collect reduced benefits as a divorced spouse when you apply at age 62.

For information, the way Social Security will calculate the benefit you are entitled to will be to first determine what you're entitled to on your own work record. Since you are also eligible for divorced spouse benefits, and if your own benefit is less than you are entitled to as a divorced spouse, you would be "deemed" to be filing for the divorced spouse benefit too, and your benefit amount will be raised ("boosted") to that which you are entitled to on your ex-spouse's record. When you apply, be sure to take with you proof of both marriages to, and divorces from, your ex-husband. And be aware that if you claim your benefit at age 62, it will be permanently reduced for the rest of your life.

The Foundation welcomes questions from readers regarding Social Security issues.
To submit a question, email the Foundation at

©2017 Russell Gloor, AMAC Certified Social Security Advisor

The information presented in this article is intended for general information purposes only. The opinions and interpretations expressed in this article are the viewpoints of the AMAC Foundation's Social Security Advisory staff, trained and accredited under the National Social Security Advisors program of the National Social Security Association, LLC (NSSA). NSSA, the AMAC Foundation, and the Foundation's Social Security Advisors are not affiliated with or endorsed by the United States Government, the Social Security Administration, or any other state government. Furthermore, the AMAC Foundation and its staff do not provide legal or accounting services.



Representations of fact and opinions in comments posted are solely those of the individual posters and do not represent the opinions of Sitnews.


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