Additional ex-spousal benefits may be elusive

Judy: I am helping my sister, who just got a divorce. She is now 79 and started collecting her Social Security when she was 62. Her husband made a lot more money than she did, but she has been told that she cannot get any of his Social Security because she started collecting hers early. I can’t find any reference to that on the Social Security website or in any publications.

Phil Moeller: If a person takes their own retirement benefit at an early age, it will reduce the size of a spousal or ex-spousal benefit claimed at a later date. Often, this reduction makes the spousal benefit worth less than the person’s own retirement benefit. In such a situation, the person will not qualify for the spousal benefit.

I do not know if this is what happened in your sister’s case, but I’m guessing that’s what the agency is saying. You would need to be able to calculate all the benefits involved to know if this is accurate or not. You could call the agency to see if someone there would help you do this, but they are so overwhelmed with requests for help that it’s tough to get them to do this work. Sorry I don’t have a more encouraging response.