What You Can Learn from Donald Trump's Wives About Social Security

Last Updated Jan 19, 2011 11:06 AM EST

A while back, I asked my Buckingham Asset Management colleague Tiya Lim to share what former spouses are entitled to receive from Social Security. As the questions keep coming in, I asked her to share some additional illustrations. Here's what she wrote.

Donald Trump is 64 years old, has been married three times and has five children. Let's assume his full retirement benefit is $1,000 per month. Let's also assume that Donald was hit hard by the 2008 recession and decided to take Social Security early, at age 62. That means his monthly benefit is reduced to about $750 per month. What do his ex-wives, current wife and minor children receive based off Donald's work record?

Marriage 1: Ivana, Age 61 Poor Ivana isn't eligible for a spousal benefit since she remarried. If she hadn't remarried, she would have been entitled to an ex-spouse benefit at 62 since her marriage to Donald lasted more than 10 years. Taking benefits early at 62 would provide her with $350 per month, while waiting until full retirement age (66) would have given her 50 percent of Donald's full benefit, or $500 per month.

Marriage 2: Marla, Age 47 Marla isn't eligible to receive a benefit based on her ex-husband's record, since they were married for only six years. However, she and Donald have a daughter who is 17. Their daughter is entitled to a child benefit of $500 per month (50 percent of Donald's full benefit) until she reaches age 18 (or 19 if still in high school).

Marriage 3: Melania, Age 40 Donald's current wife is entitled to $500 per month.

While Melania isn't old enough to receive a spouse's benefit, she and Donald have a four-year-old son, which qualifies her for a mother's benefit until their son is 16. In addition, their son is entitled to a child benefit of $500 per month until he reaches age 18 (or 19 if in high school).

Donald, Melania and their son are entitled to receive $1,750 but are restricted to a family maximum of about $1,550 (based on the $1,000 full retirement benefit). Therefore, benefits will be paid to Donald first, with the remainder going equally to his wife and son. Donald would receive his full $750, leaving $800 to be split evenly between Melania and their son.

In 12 years, Melania will no longer be eligible for the mother's benefit, and the total family benefits are redistributed as Donald's son is still entitled to $500 per month until he's no longer a minor.

If Melania is still married to Donald by the time she reaches 62, she can then begin collecting a spouse's benefit off Donald's work record.

Total Benefits to Donald's Family Note that the family max only applies to Donald's current family. If Ivana was eligible for a spouse's benefit, her amounts would not affect Melania and her son's benefits. Likewise, Marla's daughter's benefits are also separated from Donald's current marriage situation.

More on MoneyWatch:
Social Security Strategies: Double Dipping Social Security Strategies: Former Spouses Social Security Strategies: How Are My Benefits Calculated? The End of Social Security's Interest-Free Loan Has a Way to Find the Best Performing Managers Been Found?
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    Larry Swedroe is director of research for The BAM Alliance. He has authored or co-authored 13 books, including his most recent, Think, Act, and Invest Like Warren Buffett. His opinions and comments expressed on this site are his own and may not accurately reflect those of the firm.

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