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Social Security - estimating
Old 10-05-2014, 01:58 PM   #1
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Social Security - estimating

I am doing some retirement and SS planning. I'm divorced and understand I'll be eligible for SS payments based on my own earnings history or that of my ex-husband, since we were married at least 10 years and I have not remarried.

My understanding is that my payments will be 100% of my calculated benefit based on my record at the time I apply (upon reaching 62 or later) or 50% of the calculated benefits of my ex husband at his full retirement age (67).

It's a little challenging for me to estimate how much this will be: "50% of the ex-spouses benefit at FRA" since he and I have not been in contact and I have no idea what he has been earning since our separation.

...so here's my question....

Since SS deductions cap out above a certain income level, there is an earnings ceiling and therefore a maximum amount anyone at FRA can receive in SS, regardless of how much their income exceeds the ceiling.

If I can find out what that ceiling is (the most anyone can get at 67 and my ex-husband is 53 and will likely not ER), I can take 50% of that number and compare it my own benefit estimate and get an idea of whether it's even worth being concerned about drawing SS on his record.

I would think that for my own 100% SS benefit to be less lucrative than 50% of his SS benefit - that our earnings would have to have been *substantially disparate* over the years.

Appreciate any comments, suggestions, thoughts.
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Old 10-05-2014, 02:05 PM   #2
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I am not sure if your ex is older or younger than you - but I think the key age for collecting on your ex's account is YOU reaching FRA. Not him.

W2R might be able to chime in on this since she just turned on the spigot for SS on her ex's earnings a few months ago.
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Old 10-05-2014, 02:46 PM   #3
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Remember that SS benefits are not calculated on a linear scale in relation to income - in other words, someone with twice the income of someone else almost certainly won't get twice as big a benefit.

As the amount paid in to SS increases, there is less of an increase in benefit. Research "bend points" for more information.

So the type of calculation you are proposing may not tell you what you want it to. Also, the future maximum benefit will be affected by inflation. But FWIW, in 2014 someone at FRA of 66 could get a maximum benefit of $2642.
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:39 PM   #4
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Thanks for the comments.

I realize numbers are relative, so all I have been looking for,primarily, is a range. When it comes to SS, a swing of a few hundred dollars may make a difference for some, but not life changing for others...it just helps to have an estimate when making some long range plans based on rough numbers only.
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Old 10-05-2014, 03:54 PM   #5
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Can you collect spousal at your FRA and then your own benefit at 70? Not sure that works for exes. My MIL was taking spousal from her ex and had it bump up (to a survivor's full benefit I think) when he died. So that might be a possibility for an older ex. SS will have all the data and might be able to compare benefits for you.
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Old 10-05-2014, 05:19 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rodi View Post
I am not sure if your ex is older or younger than you - but I think the key age for collecting on your ex's account is YOU reaching FRA. Not him.

W2R might be able to chime in on this since she just turned on the spigot for SS on her ex's earnings a few months ago.
My ex isn't at his FRA yet, but I am. As soon as I had reached my FRA, I was able to get 1/2 his SS as my divorced spousal benefits, while allowing my own benefits to continue to grow until I reach age 70.

Here's a link telling you everything I know about divorced spousal benefits:

Retirement Planner: If You Are Divorced

Read it carefully because there is a lot of great information packed into that one little webpage.
I especially liked this part:
Quote:
(If) you have reached full retirement age and you are eligible for a spouse's benefit and your own retirement benefit, you have a choice.
You can choose to receive only the divorced spouse's benefits now and delay receiving retirement benefits until a later date. If retirement benefits are delayed, a higher benefit may be received at a later date based on the effect of Delayed Retirement Credits.
One can get divorced spousal benefits before age 66 (FRA), but if I had done that then my own benefits would not have continued to grow until I reach age 70.

Right now, 1/2 his benefits are a little less than my benefits at age 66 but not too much different. However, they will continue to grow. When I get to age 70, I will switch from his benefits to my own, which should be considerably more than 1/2 his benefits by that time.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TresBelle65 View Post
It's a little challenging for me to estimate how much this will be: "50% of the ex-spouses benefit at FRA" since he and I have not been in contact and I have no idea what he has been earning since our separation.
I had no idea either, until after I had applied online, and just a week or two before the first direct deposit when I found the number by logging in at the SS website. I was very pleased at the amount. I didn't include it in my retirement planning since it was all a mystery to me.
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