Dear Rusty: After a pretty difficult 32 years of marriage and ugly divorce a few years ago, I finally found the man of my dreams. We'd like to get married, but I'm collecting spousal benefits from my ex's Social Security record and I've been told that if I re-marry I'll lose those benefits. But I've also been told that I can remarry if I'm over 60 years old. My new guy is not collecting Social Security yet, although he is old enough to start if he chooses. So please help me. Can I remarry, or not?
Signed: Bride in waiting
Dear Bride: This is one of those things that always seems to cause confusion for those who are divorced, collecting Social Security and thinking about a second marriage. Let's start with some basics: The rules say that as an ex-wife you are entitled to spousal benefits if you are at least 62 years old, are not currently married, and were married to your ex for at least 10 years (and divorced for at least 2 if your ex is not yet collecting benefits). The benefit you are entitled to is ½ of your ex's primary insurance amount (or "PIA", the amount he is entitled to at his full retirement age). This, of course, would need to be higher than any benefit you would get on your own work record. That means that if you remarry now, regardless of your age, you will indeed lose your spousal benefit based upon your ex-husband's record.
Since you say your new guy is not yet collecting Social Security, what is most important for you is whether he plans to apply soon, and how much your spousal benefit would be on your new husband's record. This amount is easy to obtain if your new beau sets up an account at www.ssa.gov and gets his current benefit estimate, which would include what he's entitled to at his full retirement age (his "PIA"). Once he starts collecting benefits, as his spouse you would be entitled to ½ of his PIA. You can compare the benefit you now get on your ex-husband's record with what you would get from your new husband's record if he were collecting. With this knowledge, you and he can make an informed decision about whether getting married at this time is financially prudent.
Where the confusion usually stems from on remarrying after reaching 60 years of age is because that is the rule for ex-spouse survivor's benefits, not benefits from a living ex-spouse. Divorced widows can remarry after age 60 and still collect benefits on their deceased ex-husband's record (said benefit being 100% of whatever benefit the deceased ex was collecting or entitled to collect at death).
My wish for you and the new "man of your dreams" is that you spend the rest of your lives enjoying a loving and caring relationship, hopefully with wedding bells sometime in the near future.