Social Security Strategy for New Wife and Exes

Dear Dr. Don, I am 64 years old. I have a new wife and two ex-wives. I was married to each of the ex-wives for more than 10 years. They are all two or more years younger than me. I do not need the income and have no other heirs. What is my best Social Security strategy? -- Vincent Verity

Dear Vincent, Assuming you're in good health and since you don't need the income, your best strategy is to wait until age 70 to collect your Social Security. Your full retirement age is 66. By waiting until age 70 to collect benefits, you earn delayed retirement credits, and your annual benefits will be 132% of the benefits you would have received at your full retirement age.

If your current spouse reaches her full retirement age before you turn 70, you can "file and suspend" your benefits, and she can receive a spousal benefit of 50% of your full retirement benefit. Her spousal benefits won't increase because of your delayed retirement credits. If she has a work record, then by just receiving a spousal benefit at her full retirement age, she can earn delayed retirement credits based on her work record. Her decision whether it makes more sense to take a spousal benefit or a benefit based on her work record will depend on her career earnings versus your career earnings. I wouldn't recommend she file for spousal or work-based benefits prior to her full retirement age.

Since you're older than 62, as long as they haven't remarried and if they've been divorced from you for more than two years, your ex-wives can choose to receive a spousal benefit based on your work record when they turn 62 -- even if you have yet to apply for retirement benefits. Because any benefits the ex-wives receive have no impact on yours or your wife's benefits, your ex-wives can be left to plot their own Social Security strategies. If one of your ex-wives remarried and that marriage ended either by death, divorce or annulment, she may still be able to claim benefits based on your work record.

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