Q&A: Rules about a dead ex’s pension

Dear Liz: My ex-spouse passed away recently. She had a pension, and I got 25% of the monthly amount (we had a Qualified Domestic Relations Order to divide the pension). I am now the survivor, but I still get the same amount every month. Shouldn’t I be getting what she received?

Answer: Pensions for survivors don’t always increase when the primary worker dies, and sometimes they go away entirely.

That makes them different from Social Security, where a surviving spouse would get the larger of the two checks a couple received. A qualifying divorced spouse may also qualify to get a Social Security check equal to what the deceased was getting.

What happens to the pension probably depends on the details of your QDRO. Pension companies don’t always give survivors accurate information, so check with your lawyer to see what is supposed to happen according to your agreement.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: TransferWise launches traveler and immigrant-friendly debit card. Also in the news: How to get free baby stuff, dodging dealership dread with online used car sellers, and how to protect your money in a divorce.

TransferWise Launches Traveler- and Immigrant-Friendly Debit Card
No foreign transaction fees.

How to Get Free Baby Stuff: Diapers, Clothes and More
Free stuff for the newbie.

Dodge Dealership Dread With Online Used Car Sellers
Buy a car right from your phone.

How to Protect Your Money in a Divorce
All about the prenup.

Friday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: The biggest financial mistake women make. Also in the news: 4 business credit card mistakes you can’t afford to make, 5 divorce mistakes that can cost you, and why you might owe taxes this year.

The Biggest Financial Mistake Women Make
Investing is important.

4 Business Credit Card Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make
Don’t get in over your head.

5 Divorce Mistakes That Can Cost You
No talking on Twitter.

Why You Might Owe Taxes This Year
About that tax break…

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: 5 divorce mistakes that can cost you. Also in the news: How to achieve financial independence without retiring early, consolidated debt and how to do it right, and where to go when you have a travel insurance problem.

5 Divorce Mistakes That Can Cost You
Curb your social media.

How to Achieve Financial Independence Without Retiring Early
A worthwhile goal.

What Is Consolidated Debt and How to Do It Right in 2019
Don’t start charging again.

Where To Go When You Have A Travel Insurance Problem
Being your own best advocate.

5 divorce mistakes that can cost you

If you’re getting a divorce, it pays to keep quiet on social media, says New York divorce attorney Jacqueline Newman. Trashing a soon-to-be ex or boasting about your great new life can complicate divorce negotiations.

One client’s husband, for example, insisted he couldn’t afford a proposed settlement. Then, he inadvertently gave Newman leverage to get a better deal.

“He bragged (on social media) about the great vacation he just took and the big deal he just closed,” Newman says. “And I said, ‘Thank you very much.’”

Oversharing isn’t the only mistake people make when their marriages are ending. In my latest for the Associated Press, four more mistakes that can have significant financial consequences.

Q&A: Getting spousal benefits after divorce

Dear Liz: When I retired at 63, my husband had been on Social Security for several years. We had been divorced about six months at that time. Should I have been bumped up to his benefits? We had been married for 42 years.

Answer: You wouldn’t get an amount equal to his benefit if he’s still alive — that’s called a survivor’s benefit, and it’s only available after his death. But you could get a spousal benefit of up to half of his check if that amount is larger than your own retirement benefit.

Both spousal and survivor benefits are available to divorced spouses if the marriage lasted at least 10 years. Neither benefit reduces what your ex or any subsequent spouses get.

You should call the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213 to see if you qualify for a larger check.

Thursday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Does the CFPB still care about students? Also in the news: How to use your tax return to map out a better financial future, paring down the price of a move to a new state, and 6 strategies to get a divorce without going broke.

Does the CFPB Still Care About Students?
Borrowers could be losing protection.

Use Your Tax Return to Map Out a Better Financial Future
Using your tax refund strategically.

Pare Down the Price of a Move to a New State
Finding ways to cut costs.

6 strategies to get a divorce without going broke
How to avoid a big bill.

You’re married, but your assets don’t have to be

People who aren’t rich or famous typically don’t have prenuptial agreements, which are legal documents detailing who gets what in a divorce. Even ordinary folks without prenups, though, should think about how to protect their money if something goes wrong.

Planning for divorce may be cynical, but it’s also smart, San Diego certified financial planner Ginita Wall says.

In my latest for the Associated Press, how to protect your assets in case the unthinkable happens.

Wednesday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: Suing banks will get easier – if CFPB rule survives. Also in the news: 2017 Driving in America report, 7 tips for preparing your taxes in a divorce, and why you need to stop beating yourself up over past money mistakes.

Suing Banks Will Get Easier — if CFPB Rule Survives
And that’s a big “if.”

2017 Driving in America Report: The Costs and Risks
A NerdWallet report.

7 Tips for Preparing Your Taxes in a Divorce
Don’t ignore Uncle Sam.

Why You Need to Stop Beating Yourself Up Over Past Money Mistakes
Stop dwelling.

Monday’s need-to-know money news

Today’s top story: How to assess your credit card needs after divorce. Also in the news: Generation Z is off to a strong start with credit, why your friend has a better credit score than you, and how to ensure your gift cards don’t go to waste.

How to Assess Your Credit Card Needs After Divorce
How to determine what you need.

‘Gen Z’ Off to Strong Start With Credit, Analysis Shows
The fiscally responsible generation?

Why Your Friend Has a Better Credit Score Than You
Sifting through the possibilities.

How to ensure your gift cards don’t go to waste
Don’t toss away free money.