Maybe I should say mature, mid-life or baby-boomer ex-wives? Nope. I am an older ex-wife myself, so I’ll stick with older—as in wiser.
Although my ex-husband did not have an IRA, or any other type of retirement plan for that matter, I was stressed about my future when we divorced. I had always been a stay-at-home mom, so at age 50 I was relatively sure I didn’t have time to put together a retirement package that would see me through my golden years. Since I hadn’t worked, the only Social Security that I had on my account was based on the pittance I had made as a teenager. I had visions of myself in a tiny apartment with no heat, eating cat food casserole.
It wasn’t a pleasant fantasy.
To be perfectly fair, I don’t think my kids would have stood by and watched while I lived like that. But your mind plays strange tricks on you when you're contemplating a drastic change in your future, right?
You Are Entitled to His Social Security Benefits
I now know that an ex-wife is entitled to her ex’s Social Security benefits if they were married for at least ten years before the divorce became final—and as long as she hasn’t remarried.
Once you are 62 years old, you can apply for benefits based on your ex’s lifetime earnings, not just what he made while you were married. It doesn’t matter if he has retired or not, or if he is collecting social security or not. It doesn’t even matter if he has a new wife who is collecting social security on his account!
If you were married ten years or more, you are entitled to it. If you remarry, and then that marriage ends, you can still claim benefits under your ex-husband’s Social Security. In fact, if you are married to two men for ten years each, you can choose which one to collect Social Security under. Hint: Go for the higher amount!
Everything in life comes with a cautionary note, you should know that by now.
- Yes, you can absolutely collect his Social Security benefits—you’ll get half.
- You can’t collect both his benefits and yours, though, so you’ll want to wait and see what the higher amount is.
- You can’t collect his Social Security if he hasn’t started collecting it—unless you’ve been divorced for at least two years.
Later Is Better
If you wait to claim his Social Security benefits until full retirement age (65), then you can collect on his benefits while still allowing yours to grow. When you turn seventy, you can start collecting yours as well. This will give you extra time to create a higher monthly income during your retirement.
Obviously, it’s important to read the Social Security site very carefully and talk to a professional financial counselor about any details you don’t understand.
A New Spouse
As long as you’ve been married to your new spouse for a year or more, you can choose to collect on his benefits instead of your ex-husband’s benefits. But you’ll need to wait until he begins collecting his Social Security to do so.
If your new spouse has less in Social Security than your ex, you can choose to collect from your ex’s account—but you can’t do both.
Do Your Own Planning
Don’t get me wrong. This is not carte blanche to ignore your own finances and future financial health! It is more important than ever to begin your own savings plan, IRA, or retirement fund. Social Security benefits are shaky, and no one has ever gotten rich off of them!
Many banks have financial counselors that will help you with retirement planning at no cost to you. It’s a good idea to see where you are and what you can do to be more prepared.
You might not have time to create a small fortune for retirement, but if you start today, you’ll still be better off than if you did nothing, right?
Talk to Others
Finances can be hard to figure out, especially when you haven’t been the primary one handling the finances for a long time. It may not be the case for younger women, but women of my generation were often taught to leave financial matters up to their husbands. This old-fashioned habit will cause huge problems if you ever are widowed or get a divorce!
You aren’t the only one dealing with financial questions. Join First Wives World and get advice, affirmation, and encouragement from women who have been there.
Image Courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, User : TheArches