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Protect retirement after divorce with Social Security benefits

Looking forward to retirement and being prepared for it are two very different things. Most individuals try to save money for the future, but life has a way of complicating even the most seemingly straightforward endeavors. Divorce is one of those live events that can make retirement preparations more difficult.

Social Security benefits comprise a large chunk of most people's retirement income. The Social Security Administration reports that almost 50% of unmarried people collecting benefits rely on it for 90% of their income. This can sound very scary, especially to someone who is divorced and may not have benefits of his or her own to claim. This is a common situation for adults who stayed home to raise children or, for whatever other reason, did not work very much or at all.

The good news is that a divorcee can still claim Social Security benefits, not based on his or her own work history, but on an ex-spouse's. When that person turns 62, he or she can collect as much as 50% of what the ex-spouse is eligible for (without actually impacting the ex-spouse's own benefit payments) so long as the ex-spouse is already claiming benefits. An exception is if the ex-spouse is eligible to claim benefits, is not yet doing so, and the couple has been divorced for two years or more.

However, retiring on Social Security benefits is not always enough, and dividing marital property can deeply impact how financially prepared an individual is for retirement. Understanding how to access Social Security benefits after divorce is just one step toward retirement preparations, but divorcees should also make wise decisions during property division and determine whether they qualify for spousal support.

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