I am age 61 and my wife is age 50, so she is 11 years younger. She was the big breadwinner and I am an artist so have had a lifetime of earnings in the $15,000 per year range. Her earnings have averaged about $70,000 per year. I raised the children, she went to work. We are going to separate and perhaps divorce but want to do this in a way that maximizes the other's SS benefits. Because she had far greater earnings, would I ever be able to collect on her earnings? Even at age 62 or 66, given that she is so much younger? I would I only be eligible for my own lifetime of earnings? If we divorce (20 year marriage), would there be any social security benefit from her earnings in years ahead? Any advice appreciated for my earnings at this age and time will be quite small
In order for you to be potentially eligible for either spousal or divorced spousal benefits, your wife would need to be at least age 62 or receiving benefits on her own record. And, the only way that she could receive her benefits before age 62 is if she becomes disabled. As long as your ex-wife is at least age 62 and your divorce has been final for at least 2 years, you could potentially qualify for divorced spousal benefits. However, your wife would have to actually be drawing her benefits in order for you to receive spousal benefits if you are not divorced.
You won't qualify for either spousal or divorced spousal benefits unless your wife's full retirement age benefit rate (PIA) is more than twice as much as your own. Most likely, the best strategy would be for you to either a) wait until age 70 to start drawing your own benefits, or b) file for your own benefits at full retirement age and then file for an excess spousal or divorced spousal benefit when you're first eligible for them. Which of these options is best depends on your benefit rate relative to your wife's benefit rate. Before filing, you should probably consider running the maximization software available on this website in order to explore your options.