If you're planning a second march down the aisle, besides the bridal gown color and the honeymoon, you also need to address how your remarriage will affect your Social Security benefits. Allow us to present four different ways as our early wedding gift to you.
- Widow/Widower Benefits – If you have been receiving benefits based on your status as a widow/widower or a divorced widow/widower, you won't be able to continue those benefits if you remarry before age 60. For disabled individuals that remarry, the age limit drops to 50.
If you remarry after age 60, you may be able to claim benefits on your first (deceased) spouse's earnings record if that proves to be a better option than your own earnings record or that of your second (new) spouse. Survivor's benefits are equal to the full benefit amount of your deceased spouse. With spousal benefits, you receive only half of your spouse's Social Security benefits – but that may still be preferable if your spouse is/was a high earner or your own earnings record is limited.
Should you remarry before age 60, you aren't entitled to survivor's benefits unless this second marriage ends. In that case, you may be able to claim benefits on your first (deceased) spouse's earnings record if you meet all entitlement requirements.
- Divorced Spouse's Benefits – Typically, if you remarry, you are no longer eligible for divorced spouse's benefits. Your choices for benefits will be between your record and your second spouse's record, assuming the marriage lasts and you meet all other eligibility requirements.
If the remarriage ends in divorce, you may become eligible again for benefits on your first spouse's record assuming that marriage lasted for at least ten years, your ex-spouse from your first marriage was eligible for benefits, and that you are at least 62 years old. Your eligibility is unaffected by the marriage status of your ex-spouse from your first marriage. If he or she remarries, you still retain eligibility if you meet the criteria above.
- Supplemental Social Security (SSI) Benefits – SSI benefits are calculated based on income and resources. As part of a new couple, any benefits that either spouse received may be adjusted because of the switch to a couple's rate and the change in your collective resources.
- Children's Benefits – Benefits for children below age 18 will end once you remarry. This also applies to any benefits for full-time students (in high school or below) who are 18 or 19 years old.
Assess the options available to you, and feel free to ask your Social Security office to clarify any issues or verify your preferences. There are exceptions that can apply, and before making such a life-altering decision on benefits, you should be completely sure that your choices are valid.
While you're at the Social Security office, make sure that their records correctly reflect any name change, and that your employers also have correct records. Otherwise, it's possible that your future earnings will be reported on a different record than your previous earnings, and your Social Security benefits will be erroneously reduced (or eliminated altogether).
Good luck on your new marriage. Make sure that you understand the effects it will have on your Social Security, and then spend time on the far more interesting and entertaining things to consider as you embark on your new life together.
Let the free Retirement Planner by MoneyTips help you calculate when you can retire without jeopardizing your lifestyle.
Photo ©iStockphoto.com/Linda Raymond