When it comes to Social Security, the remarriage rule can cost you a lot of money


Getting remarried can seem like a no-brainer when it comes to Social Security, but it isn’t always viewed the same way.

You could lose any benefits you were receiving or would be eligible for under Social Security’s convoluted set of criteria if this act is performed at the incorrect time.


You may not have known it, but your 60th birthday is critical. It’s possible to lose retirement benefits if you get married the day before your 60th birthday. The day after or the day before? That’s fine; you’re still in the running.


Here, I’m talking about surviving spouse benefits that could be obtained from an earlier marriage. A divorce or the demise of your first spouse could have brought an end to your first marriage. This former husband or ex-spouse is now deceased, thus you are eligible for survivor benefits based on the late spouse’s record.


If you were disabled when your spouse passed away, you could be eligible for survivor benefit as early as age 50 in some situations. As a parent of a deceased child (under the age of 16), you may be entitled to a survivor benefit.


Age 60 is the age at which most surviving spouses (or ex-spouses) are eligible to receive survivor benefits, excluding those two exceptions.


You are no longer eligible for Social Security’s survivor benefit if you remarry before the age of 60, according to their guidelines. As long as you are married to the person you were before turning 60, you are ineligible. You are eligible for survivor benefits based on previous marriages if your current marriage ends, whether by death or divorce.


It’s also possible to remarry after the age of 60 and still be eligible for survivor benefits from your previous marriage.


You must have been married for at least one year before you may receive survivor benefits, or you must have been divorced, and then your ex-spouse died before you can receive these payments.


Using the previous scenario as an example, let’s see what happens:


Dave is a divorced 59-year-old man who has never been in a relationship. His late wife Sarah’s record can help him get survivor benefits when he reaches the age of 60.

If he applies for this benefit at 60, it will not affect his own retirement benefit; he can claim his own retirement benefit later, say at Full Retirement Age or later, with no decrease for his receiving the survivor benefit.


Dave and Jane are getting married, which adds an interesting twist to the story. Jane is adamant that the wedding takes place in 2022. (as a numerologist, the 6 Universal Year number is important to her). Dave won’t turn 60 until February 2023, which is a long time away.


Assuming Dave and Jane do get married in 2022, Dave will no longer be eligible for survivor benefits based on Sarah’s record. Because it reflects at least seven years’ worth of benefits (up to Dave’s Full Retirement Age), this may be a considerable sum of money.

Dave and Jane need to carefully consider their decision as any potential benefits they might gain before Dave turns 60 will be lost if they wed before then.


Consider what would happen if Jane died when Dave is 63 years old, a few years down the road. Survivor benefits based on Sarah’s record are again available, and Dave is likely to be able to pick between benefits from Sarah’s and Jane’s records. There are two options available to him, and he can flip between them as he sees fit.


For example, if he receives the reduced pension at the age of 63, it works out to $1,000 a month. At this time, he would be eligible for $900 in survivor benefits on the basis of Jane’s record.

Taking Jane’s benefit after his Full Retirement Age resulted in an increase of about $1,071 in Jane’s benefits based on his record. He could begin with the survivor benefit based on Sarah’s record and then transition to the benefit based on Jane’s record in the future. Until he reaches the age of 70, he’ll be able to make use of this perk.


It’s possible that it could work out the other way around. After considering Jane’s and Sarah’s records, Dave may elect to take the survivor benefit first and then switch to Sarah’s record when he reaches Full Retirement Age.

Alternatively, he may just accept one survivor benefit for a period and then switch to his own, never getting benefits based on the death of the other deceased person.


Ex-spouses who were married for at least ten years can also make use of these alternatives. One exemption to the non-remarriage rule exists, but it only applies in very specific situations.

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