When Can Social Security Benefits Start After a Second Marriage?

The Social Security Administration treats second marriages much like first ones.

The Social Security Administration treats second marriages much like first ones.

It’s easy to weave a tangled web of overlapping and canceling Social Security benefits if you’ve been divorced or widowed and then remarry. While you’ll only be able to collect one retirement benefit, you’ll need to determine if your own benefit or your husband’s retirement pension is right for you. It’s also important for retirement planning to know when you’re eligible for benefits.

Second Marriage and Retirement Benefits

If you plan to use your husband’s retirement benefits instead of your own, you immediately qualify to receive a pension based on his work. While your marriage license and notification of your nuptials to the Social Security Administration grant you access to spousal benefits, you’ll need to wait until you reach retirement age -- or early retirement age -- before you begin receiving benefits based on your spouse’s work.

Retirement Age and Early Retirement

When you begin drawing a spouse’s pension plays a large role in the amount you may receive. All spouses can choose to take early retirement when they turn 62, but you’ll trade a smaller benefit for going early. Your benefit will be between 70 and 80 percent of your full spousal benefit amount, depending on the year you were born. If you choose to wait until your reach retirement age, you’ll receive the full spousal pension. Full retirement age varies between 65 and 67, depending on the year you were born. Retirement age is 67 for everyone born in 1960 or later.

Survivor Benefits

If your second husband dies, you’re likely eligible to receive survivor benefits as his widow, although widow benefits don’t automatically transfer to you when you marry. You’ll need to be married to your husband at least nine months before his death unless you’re the parent or guardian of his child, your husband died while on duty in the uniformed services, his death was accidental or you were previously married to him for at least nine months.

Applying for Benefits

If you plan on using your new husband’s work history and receiving a benefit as a spouse rather than using your own retirement benefit, you’ll need to wait until your husband begins drawing his pension before you can claim spouse’s benefits, regardless of your age. Your benefit may be worth up to 50 percent of your husband’s maximum benefit, although that amount drops if you choose to retire at age 62. If you worked enough to qualify for your own retirement benefit, you may always choose to receive that rather than a spouse benefit.

About the Author

Wilhelm Schnotz has worked as a freelance writer since 1998, covering arts and entertainment, culture and financial stories for a variety of consumer publications. His work has appeared in dozens of print titles, including "TV Guide" and "The Dallas Observer." Schnotz holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Colorado State University.

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