If I Take Reduced Benefits On My Own Record, Would It Affect My Future Survivor Benefits?

Dec 30 2017 - 11:12am

I am age 62. If I start drawing on my own record now, will that have an impact on a divorced survivor benefit that I may be eligible for should my soon to be ex husband die before me? He just served me with divorce papers. He is also age 62, we have been married for 37 years and he is planning on waiting until age 70 to draw his social security. My own earnings are more than 1/2 what his would be at his full retirement age so my question is specifically about if there is an impact on a survivor annuity based on when I draw on my own record?


Filing for reduced benefits on your own record at age 62 wouldn't result in a reduction to your potential surviving divorced spousal benefit rate in the event that you later qualify. If you become entitled to surviving divorced spousal benefits any time after reaching your full retirement age (FRA) and you are already receiving retirement benefits on your own record at that time, your survivor rate would be calculated by subtracting your own retirement rate from the higher of a) your ex's full benefit rate at the time of death, or b) 82.5% of your ex's full retirement age rate (PIA).

For example, say Sally has a PIA of $1000 but starts drawing reduced retirement benefits at age 62 at a rate of $750. Sally's ex-husband waits until age 70 to file for his benefits and receives a monthly benefit rate of $2640 based on his PIA of $2000. If Sally becomes entitled to surviving divorced spousal benefits at FRA or later, her excess survivor benefit would be calculated by subtracting her own reduced retirement rate (i.e. $750) from ex's full benefit rate of $2640. The resulting survivor benefit of $1890 would be paid in addition to her own retirement benefit, making her combined benefit amount equal to her ex's full rate of $2640.

The obvious potential downside to employing this strategy is that Sally would be stuck with only her reduced retirement benefit amount for as long as both she and her ex-husband are living.

Best, Jerry