Dear Liz: My former husband is 11 years older than I am, and we were married for 15 years.
I am 54 and have never remarried. When I turn 62, can I claim spousal benefits based on his work record because he will be past full retirement age? Or do I have to be at my own full retirement age of 67 before I can claim the divorced benefit?
I was thinking that I could start claiming spousal benefits at 62 and then wait until I am 70 (letting my benefit grow). At that point, we can see which benefit is larger — half of his benefit or my full benefit. He has made much more money than I have through the years, but he has also been unemployed off and on while I have been employed consistently.
Answer: You can claim divorced spousal benefits as early as age 62 long as you remain unmarried and your marriage lasted at least 10 years.
But you lose the option to switch from a spousal benefit to your own benefit if you start Social Security before your own full retirement age.
So if your plan is to get the maximum benefit, it’s important to wait until you turn 67 to apply. At that point, you can file a restricted application for spousal benefits only and receive an amount equal to half of your ex’s benefit while letting your own grow a guaranteed 8% each year until age 70, when your benefit maxes out.