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3 Mistakes that Can Impact Your Social Security Benefits (#2 is Really Painful!)

By Sixty and Me January 24, 2020 Interviews

Do you feel as if Social Security is one of the last things you need to think about? Are you nearing retirement and you’re wondering just when you should apply for those benefits?

Today, Margaret is talking to the co-host of the PBS show MoneyTrack, author, and owner of, Pam Krueger. Pam is also an investing and financial expert who helps guide people towards the right expert for their needs, and Scott Whytock, fiduciary advisor and owner of about this very subject.

How Should You Manage Social Security? Are the Rules Different for Divorcees?

Pam is quick to remind everyone that, just in the past year, Social Security enacted 3,000 changes or put into place rules for what you can and cannot do regarding your benefits.

The majority of Social Security strategy is all about timing. This is especially true for divorcees. Most divorcees don’t know what, if anything, they are entitled to and are afraid of the future. Scott says that people shouldn’t worry. If you have worked to earn enough credits, you will have your own Social Security benefits to rely on and if you were married for at least 10 years, you can also pull on some of your former spouse’s Social Security.

You don’t need your ex-spouse’s permission, and, in fact, they won’t even know that you have applied. Your ex will still get their full amount and you will get a portion, usually half. Remember that rules change, and Social Security seems to work at making things more complicated, so it would benefit you to consult with a financial advisor or your attorney.

Financial Planning Now Can Help Decide a Better Financial Future

When people are going through a divorce, they almost always focus on the here and now; who gets what, what happens to the house, etc. Scott says that nearly every person he has talked to has made the mistake of “assuming” they will be entitled to something because their friend was or their parents did it that way, but when they realize that the rules have changed, they quickly discover that if they had only consulted a financial advisor, they may have been entitled to benefits that now, they are not.

Sometimes Delaying Your Benefits is the Best Answer

When it comes to Social Security, consulting a financial planner as to when you should file is a smart move. Everyone’s situation is a bit different, especially if you were married for more than 10 years.

In some instances, the best strategy is to do nothing. On average, social security benefits increase approximately 8 percent for every year you delay taking it. Waiting just 2 years can mean a 16 percent increase of your benefits! That is big bonus for waiting just 2 short years.

No matter what, don’t panic, Scott advises. Talk to a qualified financial planner before you start taking your benefits out of fear.

What is File and Suspend?

This is a common practice that you may hear bandied about. File and suspend, while not as easy to use as before, is a practice where you file for Social Security, but you suspend to take the payments, allowing it to build. This is very helpful in some situations, but since the rules are changing nearly every year, you would be wise to consult with a financial planner, who can check the current rules and advise you if this strategy will work for your unique situation.

Margaret really nails this subject by noting that its like a pizza. Rather than looking at the piece in front of you, consider the entire pizza and how you plan to “use it” during your retirement years.

Are you concerned about your Social Security benefits? Do you plan on trying to obtain some of the benefits due to you as an ex-wife? Are you going to wait a few more years before collecting your benefits or are you going to take the money and run as soon as possible? Join in the conversation and let’s talk about divorce and Social Security benefits!

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The Author

Sixty and Me is a community of over 500,000 women over 60 founded by Margaret Manning. Our editorial team publishes articles on lifestyle topics including fashion, dating, retirement and money.

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