We emphasize Situational Social Security in the National Social Security Advisor Certificate (NSSA®) education program, as all your clients are unique. Your clients may be single, married with wide age differences, married with narrow age differences, divorced, surviving spouses, eligible to file a Restricted Application, public employees, etc.

Advisors (you) must understand the issues and questions that relate to every unique client. You are your clients' trusted advisor and must understand Social Security.

My partner, Jim Blair, worked for the Social Security Administration for 35 years and retired in January 2010. Jim and I began our journey together at that time to help folks to understand and maximize their Social Security benefits. In January 2013, we created the National Social Security Advisor Certificate program. To date, 2,600 advisors across the country have earned the NSSA® ccertification.

In this installment of Situational Social Security (SSS), we will discuss Social Security benefits relating to divorced individuals. First, the rules for you to collect off an ex-spouse:

  • You must be single
  • You must be at least age 62
  • Marriage duration – 10 continuous years (this is measured by the filing date of the decree)
  • Your spouse must be collecting a retirement or disability benefit if divorced for less than two years

The requirement that your ex-spouse be receiving a benefit does not apply if the following conditions are met, as “Independently Entitled Divorced Spouse” status will apply:

  • You and your ex are at least age 62
  • You are single
  • Marriage duration – 10 continuous years
  • You and your ex have been divorced for at least two years

Restricted Application for Ex-Spouse – Tom came in last week and met with Jim Blair. Tom had been married to Alice for 25 years, and they have been divorced for five years. Tom was born January 25, 1952. Tom told Jim that Alice filed a Restricted Application and is collecting a spousal benefit off his work record. Tom asked Jim if he can also file a Restricted Application to collect a spousal benefit off Alice’s record. Tom is eligible to file a Restricted Application as he was born by the "magic" birth date of January 1, 1954, and the requirements stated above have been met.

Filing a Restricted Application will allow Tom to receive a spousal benefit while his own retirement benefit earns Delayed Retirement Credits. This is a very powerful strategy. Do you want to supercharge this strategy? Tom is also eligible to file the Restricted Application effective six months ago, (May), receiving a lump sum check for six months of retroactive spousal benefits. Wow! Tom better file the Restricted Application by the end of the month or risk losing a month of spousal benefits.

Impact of Marriage – One of the requirements to collect off an ex-spouse is that the ex-spouse seeking to collect must be single. Mary came in a couple months ago. Mary has been receiving Social Security from her ex-husband, Sid, for several years. Mary plans on marrying Bob in March 2023. Mary is concerned that her Social Security benefits off Sid will be impacted if she marries Bob. Her friend, Harold, told Mary that her benefit off Sid will continue after she marries Bob. Mary is not sure of Harold’s advice!

Mary is correct as she must be single to collect a spousal SS benefit off Sid. Harold is wrong again! Upon marrying Bob, Mary’s benefits off Sid will terminate. However, Mary is eligible to collect spousal benefits off her new husband, Bob, if he is receiving a retirement or disability benefit. Generally, Mary would have to wait until married to Bob for a year to receive a spousal benefit off of his record. This requirement does not apply if Bob is collecting a Social Security benefit upon marriage.

Amount of Benefit off Ex-Spouse – We will cover the calculation of spousal benefits (current or divorced) in greater detail in another installment of Situational Social Security. For now, please understand that a spousal benefit is equal to 50 percent of the other spouse’s Full Retirement Age benefit, or Primary Insurance Amount, PIA.

For example, if my PIA is $2,000, then my ex-spouse is eligible for $1,000 at her Full Retirement Age. If she takes early, the spousal benefit will be reduced for age. Spousal benefits do not increase after Full Retirement Age.

Additional strategies relating to ex-spouses will be discussed in a ater t installment of Situational Social Security.

For additional tips and cutting-edge strategies, you are invited to attend the National Social Security Advisor Certificate education program. NSSA® education focuses on Situational Social Security and probing questions to uncover additional client benefits. We are also offering Holiday Special Webinars in December with tuition discounted 40 percent.. For more information and registration, visit www.premiernssa.com.

Marc Kiner, CPA is the president and part owner of Premier Social Security Consulting and the National Education Director of WIFS.