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Later-in-life divorcees can benefit from an ex's Social Security benefits


For any individual who is approaching retirement age, ensuring for one's future financial security is often top-of-mind. While many individuals who have invested wisely likely have sizable retirement savings, a later-in-life divorce can complicate and inhibit one's retirement plans.

Within the last two decades, the divorce rate among married couples age 50 and older has doubled. Additionally, according to the World Bank, as of 2012, the average life expectancy in the U.S. was nearly 79 years. This number marks nearly a 13 percent increase since 1970 when the average life expectancy was age 70. This means that an individual who divorces at age 59 must be prepared to fund his or her retirement for the next 20 or more years.

Divorce at any age can trigger concerns about one's financial situation, however, such concerns are often magnified for divorcees who are nearing retirement age. While a husband or wife is likely to receive a sizable portion of marital assets in a divorce settlement, the amount awarded may not be sufficient to maintain one's preferred retirement lifestyle.

Thankfully, many individuals who divorce later in life are able to draw upon an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits. Sadly, according to a recent study by AARP and the Financial Planning Association, the vast majority of U.S. adults aren't aware of this fiscally-wise option.

To qualify to draw upon an ex-spouse's Social Security benefits, an individual must have been married for at least 10 years. Additionally, both the individual and his or her ex-spouse must be at least age 62 and the individual who plans to claim on an ex-spouse's benefits cannot be remarried.

While Social Security benefits alone don't typically provide sufficient income to live out one's retirement years, they can be used to supplement retirement income and bolster one's ability to maintain a certain lifestyle and achieve retirement goals.

Source: Investment News, "Complex Social Security rules for divorced spouses," Mary Beth Franklin, Sept. 28, 2015

NPR.org, "Older Americans' Breakups Are Causing A 'Graying' Divorce Trend," Ina Jaffe, Feb. 24, 2014

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