With the rate of inflation being stagnant for many years, every dime counts. This is especially true for people near or at retirement age. And for many divorced people, that means the ability to stake a claim for at least part of their ex-spouse's social security benefits.
But did you know that it's not as easy as just getting a check every month after filling out a form? First, you have to pass what they call the earnings test, a threshold for people below the fill retirement age (FRA) or normal retirement age (NRA). The NRA is the age at which retirement benefits (before rounding) are equal to the "primary insurance amount."
From the Social Security Administration:
"One of two different exempt amounts apply — a lower amount in years before the year you attain NRA and a higher amount in the year you attain NRA. These exempt amounts generally increase annually with increases in the national average wage index.
"Under the earnings test, Social Security withholds benefits if your earnings exceed a certain level, called a retirement earnings test exempt amount, and if you are under your NRA.
"For people attaining NRA after 2015, the annual exempt amount in 2015 is $15,720. For people attaining NRA in 2015, the annual exempt amount is $41,880. This higher exempt amount applies only to earnings made in months prior to the month of NRA attainment."
In essence, the SSA withholds $1 in benefits for every $2 of earnings in excess of the lower exempt amount, and Uncle Sam withholds $1 in benefits for every $3 of earnings in excess of the higher exempt amount. Earnings in or after the month you reach NRA do not count toward the retirement test. So before you go out and seek some of your ex's social security check, make sure you won't be coming out behind on the math.
Social Security claiming strategy for divorced working woman (USA Today)
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