Social Security Strategies: Do 'Housewife Years' Count?

Last Updated Jun 20, 2011 9:56 AM EDT

Years Spent as a Housewife Don't Count Toward Social SecurityQ: My ex-husband and I were married 15 years, and I was a housewife for 10 of those years. Can I claim the 10 years of earnings of my ex in addition to the 40 quarters of much lower earnings I made on my own? I have remarried, am 64 and began taking my own benefits at 62.
A: The following is a response from my Right Financial Plan co-author Tiya Lim, who wrote the Social Security section of our book.

Unfortunately, "housewife" earnings (and what we should get paid to do that job) aren't included in earnings history for Social Security purposes. As an ex-spouse, being married for more than 10 years would automatically qualify you for an ex-spouse benefit. Even if he won't reveal his benefits, the Social Security office can provide that data to you. If your ex-husband's spouse benefit was greater than your own worker benefit, you would be able to get some additional benefits each month.

However, because you remarried, you're no longer entitled to an ex-spouse benefit. You now only qualify for a current spouse benefit based off of your current husband's work record. To see what you are entitled to as a married spouse, please read the post, "Understanding the Spousal Benefit."

Photo courtesy of Webb Zahn on Flickr.
For further reading on Social Security, see the following posts:

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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.