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Social Security benefits should be figured in divorce settlement

If you're a few years within retirement age, there's one more thing you have to think about as you ponder divorce: Social Security.

USA Today reported recently that 91 percent of Americans over age 50 aren't really sure of the Social Security benefits they will have coming to them, and divorce adds to the confusion. It's something to understand as you look to a financial settlement with your ex-spouse.

If you were married for at least 10 years, you could stand to earn higher Social Security income than you think.

The first thing to do is to look at your benefits in relation to your former spouse's. If you haven't started to claim benefits yet, sign up on the Social Security Administration (SSA) website for projections of your earnings. Your ex-spouse can do the same.

If you see that you are earning, or will earn, less each month than your ex, you could receive higher benefits if you were married at least 10 years, are not married to someone else and are at least 62.

Once you hit 62 you can, but are not required to, file for Social Security benefits. (You'll receive a greater payout if you wait until age 65, and then more at your full retirement age, to file.) You will receive the money due to you first, but you could receive more based on your ex-spouse's work record.

If you wait until your full retirement age, which is based on your year of birth, you could receive up to half of your ex-spouse's benefit. Your ex-spouse's benefits will not be reduced.

You don't get double the benefits, but rather a boost. So, for example, if your benefits would be $900 a month and your ex-spouse's would be $2,400, you would receive an increase to $1,200 - half of your former spouse's benefit.

As we said, Social Security is complex to figure out. Still, for many, it is something to consider as they work toward both a divorce and retirement. Your divorce attorney can explain the topic in full.

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