Q&A: When Social Security isn’t enough

Dear Liz: I am 87, divorced for 45 years, never remarried. I applied for my 93-year-old former husband’s Social Security support and qualified. I was refused by the local Social Security office. I really don’t understand why. I am a COVID long-hauler and I get confused. I was a stay-at-home mom until my kids were in college, and my husband divorced me. My Social Security is not enough to support me, and I am seriously in debt. I am set up with Social Security to receive my share of my former husband’s Social Security at the time of his death. What am I doing wrong?

Answer: If your former husband is still alive, it’s possible that your current Social Security retirement benefit is larger than any benefit you would have gotten from his work record. Spousal and divorced spousal benefits are limited to 50% of the primary worker’s benefit at full retirement age.

Should he die, you could be eligible for a divorced survivor benefit, which is up to 100% of the amount he was receiving.

Rather than wait, though, you should consider talking to a bankruptcy attorney about your debt. Consider asking one of your kids or a financially savvy friend to come with you and take notes so you understand your options.

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