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What Are the Most Common Retirement Questions You Receive about Social Security?

April 6, 2017 • By

Reading Time: 2 Minutes

Last Updated: April 6, 2017

Suze OrmanThere are two big questions I hear plenty.

  1. My husband wants to retire at 62 and start taking Social Security. Is that okay?

This typically comes up because husbands are often a few years older than their wives, and figure they want to “get their money’s worth” by taking Social Security as early as possible. I think that can be a bad move. Unless you have oodles of money to live on in retirement, you — as a couple — want to maximize your Social Security payout for the longest surviving spouse. It’s important to understand that when one spouse dies, the other spouse is entitled to just one Social Security payment. So you want the surviving spouse to have the biggest possible benefit. Here’s how: Whichever spouse is the higher earner (and thus eligible for a bigger Social Security benefit) should  delay taking Social Security at least until their Full Retirement Age (FRA), which is between age 66 and 67, depending on the year you were born.

Your FRA benefit is 25 to 30 percent higher than the benefit you can get at age 62. Even better is to have the high earner wait all the way until age 70. The benefit if you start then is more than 65 percent higher than the benefit you are entitled to at age 62. While the high-earner should wait as long as possible, the other spouse can start earlier, but I always encourage both spouses to delay as long as possible.

  1. I am getting divorced and haven’t worked full time. Am I going to be able to get Social Security?

If you were married at least 10 years you will be eligible for Social Security based on your ex-spouse’s earnings record. Your receiving a benefit will have no impact on the benefit your ex is eligible for.

There are a few caveats to understand about how this works. Most important, you can’t make a claim on an ex-spouse’s record if you remarry. (It doesn’t matter if your ex remarried.) You also need to be at least 62 years old. You can learn more about that here.


SSA does not endorse any particular financial advisory product or service.

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About the Author

Suze Orman, Personal Finance Expert

Suze Orman is an award-winning personal finance expert.


  1. ling

    I will be 62 years old next year. I plan to retire. I will also collect my social security benefits as I will get a smaller amount than my husband. He will continue working until he reaches 67 or older, then collect his social benefits. Is this a common/best approach for other married couple?

    • Ray F.

      Hi, Ling! Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. Our Retirement Planner provides detailed information about your Social Security retirement benefits under current law. It also points out things you may want to consider as you prepare for the future. We hope you enjoy our information while learning of your retirement options, including “Benefits For You As A Spouse”. Thanks!

  2. Katrinia

    I have two former husbands I was widowed from first (20 years married) and divorced from the second (15 years married).I am 65 and working full time. I would prefer to hold off collecting on my retirement benefits as long as possible. I need some guidance am I able to collect on either husband and do I have to wait till 66 to initiate this. Any information would be appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Ray F.

      Hi, Katrinia. It appears that both of your marriages may have met the eligibility requirements needed to receive benefits as a widow and as divorced spouse. However, we are only going to pay the highest benefit amount from either record – meaning that you will only be allowed to receive one payment. Also, you can still work and receive your Social Security benefits at the same time. However, if you are younger than full retirement age and make more than the yearly earnings limit, this can reduce the number of payments you receive through the year. You can use our earnings test calculator to see how your earnings could affect your benefit payments, or see “How We Deduct Earnings From Benefits”. Please call our toll free number at 1-800-772-1213 for further assistance. Representatives are available Monday through Friday, between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Or contact your local office directly. We hope this helps.

  3. Jerry

    I am 7 years older than my wife. I want her to get the maximum benefit possible as a survivor. My plan is to wait until age 70 before drawing social security. My wife will turn 62, 8 months before that happens. Would this be the best option for us: Wife takes your own reduced benefit at 62 (say $1000), then I take my benefit at age 70 (say $3000), then when I die and she is over her full-retirement age, she would be eligible as a spousal survivor for a maximum benefit I was receiving ($3000). Would this be correct?

    • Ray F.

      Hi Jerry. Please bear in mind that the decision on when to apply for benefits is a personal one. We can only provide you with the information to help you make the best choice according to your own situation. While your wife may still be eligible to collect reduced spouse’s benefits on your record when you decide to retire, she could also qualify for widow’s benefits if she outlives you. Survivor’s benefits are paid at a higher rate, and the monthly amount she would get is a percentage of your basic Social Security benefit. Visit our “Survivors Planner: How Much Would Your Survivors Receive?” for more information.

  4. Daron

    Can I just say what a relief to find a person who really knows what theyre talking about online. You undoubtedly know the best way to bring an concern to light and make it significant. Far more folks ought to read this and have an understanding of this side of the story. I cant think youre not a lot more popular because you surely have the gift.

  5. Brett

    Some of SS retirees still maintains own IRA and/or 401K accounts as a supplemental mean of income , so they kind of look at SS in a different light than others who lack such supplemental means of income due to low income and high cost of living, etc. My question here is whether the more fortunate retirees are less likely to be concerned with the current plight of SS Fund than others. It is a complicated and subtle issue. My main beef with SS is that they had skipped cost of living increases at least three times in recent years which I think is way too frequent especially during the boom years of recently. Is it more because SS is relatively illiquid due to overweight investments in longer term Treasuries that are not mature yet in order to get the cash out? Treasuries bought way back in late eighties and all of the nineties yield pretty good returns at average of 5 percent more or less. I know that SS Fund is still siitting pretty on at least two to three trillion dollars worth of Treasuries , yet it cut cost of living increases every so often. I view the SS Fund as kind of mismanaged if you compare to other pension funds for state employees for example. Pension funds are allowed to invest in stocks and bonds while SS Fund is restricted to Treasuries.. I think that our stock/bond market is not large enough to support the SS Fund investments in stocks and bonds , pretty much to it.

  6. Patrick

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  7. Collin

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  8. Kent

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  9. Ambrose

    Informative article, totally what I needed.

  10. PERCY R.


    • Ray F.

      Hi Percy. Our system is set up to take applications three months in advance. You can create a My Social Security account to review your earnings record and get an estimate of your future benefits. When you are ready, you can complete the online application for your Social Security Retirement benefits in as little as 15 minutes. Benefits are paid the month after they are due. If you want to receive your first benefit payment in September, you must select your benefits to begin with the month of August. Please visit our Social Security Retirement Planner for more information.

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