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Remarriage strategies to protect Social Security benefits

Census Bureau data indicates that over the past 25 years, the divorce rate for people over the age of 50 has doubled. Divorcing your spouse gives you the option to remarry if desired. However, divorce and remarriage can hurt your ability to collect from your ex-spouse’s Social Security retirement benefits. 

In addition to being over the age of 62 and married for at least 10 years prior to your divorce, one of the qualifications for collecting Social Security from your ex-spouse is that you remain unmarried. Here are some of the ways that divorce and remarriage can affect your eligibility. If you expect to receive Social Security benefits upon reaching retirement age, you may want to think twice before making any major life decisions. 

The case for waiting to remarry 

The earliest that you can receive survivor benefits if your ex-spouse dies is at age 60. If your ex-spouse is not deceased, you can start collecting Social Security benefits upon age 62. Therefore, in the former case, you can protect your benefits by waiting until you reach the age of 60 to remarry. In the latter case, the most profitable strategy to protect your benefits may be not to remarry at all, or at least to wait until your ex-spouse dies before remarrying. 

Remarrying before age 62 does not prevent you from collecting any Social Security retirement benefits. You would still be eligible to receive your own benefits, but you would no longer have the option of collecting your ex-spouse’s. This could be to your detriment if the benefit you would receive from your ex-spouse is greater. 

The case for remarrying early 

The Social Security benefit for divorced spouses is available to you after 10 years of marriage. Therefore, if you remained married to your first spouse for at least 10 years prior to the split and then spent 10 years married to your second spouse before the marriage ended due to death, divorce or annulment, you would have the option to choose between your first and second spouse’s Social Security benefits, whichever is greater.