EP 37: Must-know Information About Social Security Benefits After Divorce

Welcome to the thirty-seventh episode of the Divorce and Your Money Podcast. Shawn Leamon, MBA and a Certified Divorce Analyst, discusses how divorce affects your Social Security benefits.

Social Security payments are made when you retire or become disabled, which is something you need to think about when you are planning for the future from a financial perspective. Social Security is a major source of income for people when they retire. When you get divorced, important questions need to be asked, such as whether you should take your own Social Security benefits or those of your ex-spouse.

Different criteria apply for each of these options. For receiving the Social Security benefits of your ex-spouse, you need to meet the following criteria:

  • Married for 10 years or more.
  • Over 62 years old.
  • Your ex-spouse is eligible to receive Social Security benefits
  • Benefits you are entitled to receive for your own work are less than the benefits you would receive based on your ex-spouse’s work. This can be determined by going to the Social Security Administration Website and doing the calculation yourself.

You need to keep in mind several key points. Social Security Benefits don’t qualify as marital assets. They cannot be given away or negotiated during a settlement. Second, you need to figure out what you and your spouse’s benefits will be. Your attorney should be asking this question. If you are in a position where you will be taking 50% of your ex-spouse’s benefits, it will not have any effect on them. They will still receive 100% of their benefits. In case of your spouse’s demise, you get to take 100% of their benefits.

Once you are eligible for benefits, you should start taking them. There is no way to catch up on missed benefits. For people born in the 1950s, a change in the law affects how these benefits will work for them. Further details can be found at the Social Security Administration Website.

Key Learning Points:

  • Social Security benefits apply when you retire or become disabled.
  • In a divorce, you can either take your own Social Security benefits or those of your ex-spouse.
  • Certain criteria are involved in taking the Social Security benefits of your ex-spouse.
  • Social Security benefits don’t qualify as marital assets.
  • If you are receiving 50% of your spouse’s benefits, it will not affect them.
  • Take your benefits as soon as you are eligible.
  • Further details can be found at the Social Security Administration Website.

Thank you for listening to the Divorce and Your Money Podcast. We hope the show helps you through one of the most difficult periods of your life. Shawn Leamon is also author of Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide. One-on-one divorce coaching services are available at www.divorceandyourmoney.com.

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Shawn Leamon, MBA, CDFA

Dallas, Texas

Shawn C. H. Leamon is Managing Partner of LaGrande Global, a firm that helps successful families manage large financial transitions like divorce, inheritance and selling a business.

He earned his Bachelor of Arts from Dartmouth College, double majoring in Economics and Philosophy, and his Masters in Business Administration at Spain’s IE Business School.

Before founding LaGrande Global, Shawn helped manage $1.1 billion in client assets at Bernstein Global Wealth Management. He also worked as a credit research analyst at J.P. Morgan. He is a Certified Divorce Financial Analyst, and he has been an advisor to numerous high-stakes divorce cases.

Shawn is the author of two well-received finance books: Managing Private Wealth: Principles, and Divorce and Your Money: The No-Nonsense Guide, both published in 2016.

In his spare time, Shawn is an ultra-endurance athlete and has competed in events as long as 24 hours. He is an Eagle Scout and a member of the Alumni Board of Greenhill School.