Let’s say her new husband’s primary insurance amount (PIA) is $2,800 per month. The maximum spousal benefit is 50% of his PIA, or $1,400 per month.
In Tammy’s case, her top-up is calculated as follows: $1,400 (maximum spousal benefit) — $1,130 (her own PIA) = $270. Because she’s past her full retirement age (FRA), she would get the full top-up amount of $270 added to her existing reduced benefit. Therefore, her new benefit amount after remarriage would be about $1,120 ($850 + $270).
Her exact payment amount will be based on her new husband’s actual PIA and cost-of-living increases over the years.
Can Tammy ever collect anything on her first husband’s record?
Tammy’s last question was about getting more on her ex’s work history. She wrote, “His benefits should be quite large since he’s had good-paying jobs since he was 24 years old. Can’t I collect a better rate off him?”
The only way to get a top-up on an ex-spouse is to remain unmarried. If she does not remarry, when her ex reaches 62, she could then ask Social Security for a recalculation of her benefits and get any applicable ex-spousal top-up.
However, Tammy may eventually “step into his shoes” and collect his benefit if she becomes the only surviving spouse. If she does not remarry, and her ex dies first, and he was receiving more than her $850 per month, she can claim as a surviving ex-spouse. Whatever amount he was receiving will become her survivor benefit.
If she remarries, as it sounds like she prefers, and both her new husband and her ex die before she does, she will receive one benefit. It will be the higher benefit between the two men. It may be that her ex was collecting $2,950 per month and her second husband was getting $2,800. In that case, her survivor benefit would in fact be based on her ex’s benefit.
Remember, it’s a good idea for advisors to ask their clients what they’ve heard about how Social Security works. Often, any “facts” from friends and family are fraught with incorrect, misinformed and even outrageous information. Set the rules straight before clients miss opportunities or make irrevocable mistakes.
Marcia Mantell is the founder and president of Mantell Retirement Consulting, Inc., a retirement business development, marketing & communications and education company supporting the financial services industry, advisors and their clients. She is author of “What’s the Deal with Retirement Planning for Women?,” “What’s the Deal with Social Security for Women?” and blogs at BoomerRetirementBriefs.com.