Can I get retroactive spousal benefits from Social Security?
by Amber Leach
Q. I am 62 and I was married for 28 years from 1984 to 2012. We divorced and my husband died in 2017 at age 60. I have never remarried. I called the Social Security office in July of 2020, when my ex-husband would have been 63, and I have been collecting his benefits now for five months. Is there any way to go back and collect on the year that I missed? And I turned 62, so can I collect both of our benefits? — Curious
A. We’re sorry to hear about your ex-husband.
As you know, you are eligible to collect on your ex’s Social Security records because you are over age 60, you were married for more than 10 years and you did not remarry. Note that you can remarry over age 60 and still qualify.
But it’s unfortunate that you didn’t start collecting when you first turned age 60, said Amber Leach, a certified divorce financial analyst with AXA Advisors/R.I.C.H. Planning Group in Morristown.
You are unable to collect on those past benefits, she said.
“You are unable to collect both benefits at the same time so you will have to ultimately make a decision of when to switch,” she said. “Social Security will send you a letter to notify you when your personal benefit is larger than the widowed spousal benefit you are currently receiving. “
You can also see your statements and find benefit information online at www.ssa.gov.
Some of the factors to consider are your longevity and your need for income, Leach said. What is your current health and expected longevity? If you have a significant health issue then collecting early might make sense for you, she said.
“On the other hand, if longevity runs in your family then delaying receiving your highest benefit at age 70 should be considered,” she said.
Also, consider what other assets you can use to fund your lifestyle besides taking Social Security.
“If you can access funds from these other accounts then you can let your personal benefit continue to grow in Social Security,” she said. “From full retirement age to age 70, your personal benefit will grow at 8% a year. If, on the other hand, you take your benefit early, you will permanently reduce your benefit for the rest of your life.”
You may want to work with a financial advisor who can help you analyze your options.
“Through planning software, they can run different scenarios and show you how delaying your Social Security will impact your retirement,” she said. “They can walk you through the factors you should consider for when you want to take Social Security.”
Prior to joining R.I.C.H. Planning Group, LLC, Amber enjoyed a successful 17-year career on Wall Street where she worked in institutional sales in fixed income derivatives. After leaving Wall Street, she found her passion and true value was in helping people with financial matters. Amber quickly realized that her biggest impact came from working with her clients to help them navigate and plan for the financial complexities that arise throughout all of life’s transitions. This involves working closely with her clients to identify what their financial goals are and then creating a comprehensive financial plan and strategy to achieve them. This process analyzes all the facets of finance-risk management, retirement planning, education planning, wealth management, cash flow analysis and budgeting, tax planning and estate planning.
“I am truly honored to be in a position to educate and offer people financial advice at any time in their lives, whether that is divorce, marriage, parenthood or retirement.” Amber is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER®, a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst™ as well as a divorce mediator. She is also trained in collaborative law.
After growing up in Florida and the Bahamas, Amber earned her B.A. in Economics from Duke University and her M.B.A. in Finance from New York University. She also has FINRA registrations Series 7, 66 and NJ Life and Health Insurance licenses.
Equitable Advisors is the brand name of AXA Advisors, LLC. Securities and investment advisory services offered through AXA Advisors, LLC (NY, NY 212-314-4600), member FINRA, SIPC. Annuity and insurance products offered through AXA Network, LLC. R.I.C.H. Planning Group, LLC is not a registered investment advisor and is not owned or operated by AXA Advisors or AXA Network. AGE- 152717 (04/20) (Exp. 04/22)
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