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Does my Social Security Benefit From Ex's Raise?

Social Security Card With Cash in Hands

Dear Retirement Adviser,

I was married to my ex-husband for 21 years. Since the divorce, his income has almost tripled. I'm wondering how this will affect his Social Security benefits. I know that I am entitled to half of his retirement benefit if it is more than mine. He is now making about $350,000 per year.


-- Carol Quandary

Dear Carol, There is a maximum Social Security benefit. In 2013, for a worker retiring at his or her full retirement age, that benefit is $2,533 per month. You can expect that maximum benefit to increase over time.

There is also a limit to how much Social Security can take from your ex-husband's taxable earnings and how much his benefit can grow. In 2013, the maximum taxable earnings is $113,700. That's well below your husband's income, which suggests his benefits won't increase.

As a divorced spouse, you are eligible for a spousal benefit that's half your ex-husband's retirement benefits. You'll get the benefit if you haven't remarried and if you're at, or over, your full retirement age. However, if you remarry and that marriage ends by death, divorce or annulment, you regain the ability to claim a spousal benefit based on his work record.

He can remarry, and it won't affect the benefits you receive based on his work record.

If you've reached your full retirement age and you are eligible for a spousal benefit as well as your own retirement benefit, you can choose to only receive the divorced spousal benefit now. You can delay the retirement benefits based on your work record. By doing that, you'll earn delayed retirement credits, which may result in a higher benefit received when you file for benefits. Delayed retirement credits are earned up to age 70. Past that age, there's no benefit to delaying filing for benefits based on your work record.

Since your marriage lasted for more than 10 years, you'll receive a survivors benefit if your ex-husband dies. That's true even if you remarry after you turn 60 (50 if disabled).

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