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Cardan Founding Partner and Certified Divorce Financial Analyst® (“CDFA”)  Sarah Keys, explores collecting social security benefits if your are divorced.

Women face many challenges when it comes to financial well-being later in life.  During their working years, not only do women tend to get paid less than men, they also tend to take part-time jobs over full time positions or pass up promotions more frequently than men to be able to take care of kids and/or older family members.  As a part-time worker, a woman may not have access to benefits such as 401k plans to save for retirement.  If lucky enough to be eligible to contribute to a 401k plan, she may not earn enough to be able to maximize benefits such as an employer match—especially if she is paying for child care while working.

Compounding the inability to make adequate money or save for retirement, is the fact that women tend to invest more conservatively than men.  This lowers their returns over the years, leaving them with a relatively smaller nest egg.  This is particularly problematic given that women tend to live longer than men.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the poverty levels of older women.  According to a report published by the Center for American Progress in 2020 on women in poverty, the percentage of women over the age of 75 living in poverty is 13.2% versus 8.8% for men.   It is even direr for non-white women, who are twice as likely to live in poverty as their white counterparts.

For many women, the only meaningful stream of income they have during their later years is Social Security benefits.  The monthly benefit amount is calculated using the average indexed monthly earnings during the 35 years in which you earned the most.  The more money you earned, the more you receive.  Because Social Security benefits are based on earnings, and women often earn less than men, they also receive less in Social Security.  What many divorced women don’t realize is that they may still be able to claim benefits based on their ex-husband’s earnings record.

A divorced woman can claim the larger of her own benefit or up to half of her ex-husband’s full retirement age benefit provided she meets the following criteria:

  • She was married to her ex-spouse for 10 or more years;
  • She has been divorced for two years (or her ex is already claiming retirement benefits);
  • She is not currently remarried; and
  • She is 62 or older.

Furthermore, her claim does not impact the ex-husband’s benefit amount or his new wife’s.  He also does not have to be receiving his benefits for her to claim the spousal benefit.  The ability to claim a spousal benefit can make a big difference to a woman’s ability to live above the poverty line in retirement.  To find out more, visit:  www.ssa.gov or call 1-800-772-1213

Sarah L. Keys, J.D., M.A.

Sarah L. Keys, J.D., M.A.


Sarah Keys holds the CDFA® designation. This specialized, professional designation focuses on pre-divorce financial planning.  A CDFA® helps guide a divorcing couple and/or their legal representation through financial issues that will affect their lives, including property valuation and division, retirement assets and pensions, spousal and child support, tax considerations, and expert witness testimony. This certification draws both on Sarah’s professional background as a family law attorney and her knowledge of financial planning and investment strategies.





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