Social Security Q&A: Can I Collect Spouse’s or Ex-Spouse’s Benefits if I Remarried after 60?

Social Security may be your largest or one of your largest assets. How you manage it, by deciding which benefits to collect and when, can make an absolutely huge difference to your lifetime benefits. And those with the highest past covered earnings have the most to gain from maximizing their Social Security.

I’ve been answering questions and writing columns about Social Security each week for the past two years on PBS NEWSHOUR’s website. The editors at Forbes asked me to post a Q&A each day from those columns. To see all my columns, please go to my software company’s site,, and click More Press below the WSJ quote.

Today’s question asks if it’s possible to claim benefits based on the record of either a current or an ex-spouse after remarrying at 60. The answer looks at eligibility rules for an ex-spouse’s benefit, the effects of remarriage after 60, and the effects of one or both spouses earnings not being covered by Social Security.

Question: I was a police officer for 33 years. Prior to that I worked at various jobs, but I am 10 quarters short to collect Social Security. I had always planned on working again after retiring from the police department in order accrue the required Social Security quarters. However, as I was preparing to retire, I was diagnosed with oral cancer, which left me unable to work. Is there any way to collect from my current wife or my ex-wife? Things are really hard right now, and any help would be appreciated. I was married to a teacher for 27 years, divorcing in 2001. I remarried in February of 2013, at the age of 60, to a 62-year-old woman, who has worked most of her life. Thank you very much.

Answer: You can’t collect spousal benefits on your ex-spouse’s earning record because you are married. On the other hand, since you re-married after age 60, you can collect a survivor benefit based on your ex once your ex passes away. Normally, a divorcée who remarries can’t collect survivor benefits based on his or her first spouse. But if you remarry after age 60, Social Security makes an exception.

But your ex was a teacher, whose earnings might not have been covered by Social Security. If she were covered from Social Security-covered employment outside of teaching, her primary insurance amount (upon which your own spousal benefit would be based) would be reduced due to the Windfall Elimination Provision. The good news is you can collect on your second wife’s earnings record. The bad news is that your spousal benefit will be hit by three whammies if you take it starting at age 62. First, it will be reduced due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision. Second, it will be reduced due to the early spousal benefits reduction factor. And third, your current wife will need to apply for reduced retirement benefits in order for you to be eligible to collect a spousal benefit.

The GPO may also prevent you from drawing a surviving divorced spousal benefit — if your first wife dies before you.

Author: Laurence Kotlikoff – Contributor
Original Article Date: November 11, 2014
Forbes |

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of John Boyer, Inc. 

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