An unmarried client of mine is ready to retire from nursing, sort of. She may work a little, in some capacity, somewhere, for a bit, or maybe not. She turns 66 in February.

“One of my co-workers says if I retire, I should file for my retirement benefits right away, but another says I should wait until 70. What do you think I should do? ” she asked.

It gave me the opportunity to explain how she can file for benefits and delay until age 70 at the same time. I know that sounds weird, but many clients can do just that if they have an ex-spouse. 

As a single person, the decision to file for retirement benefits is fairly straight forward. If she can fund the delay and expects to live into her eighties, the net “return” is terrific for a government-backed “investment” that is not subject to market risks.

She can fund a delay so normally, we would discuss her longevity expectations and the health of the Social Security system and a decision would be made.

If she opted to delay, I would probably have her file at her full retirement age (FRA) and immediately suspend the benefits.  This is a technique most often discussed in a married household, but singles can do it, too.

By filing and suspending, if she gets sick or injured or otherwise changes her mind before age 70, she can collect any suspended benefits in a lump sum and get a check monthly equal to what she would have received had she started collecting at her FRA.

However, she wasn’t always single and she has other options. She can claim a benefit off her ex-husband’s work record.

To be eligible to receive a benefit off her ex-husband’s record, the following criteria must be met:

  • must have been married to him for at least 10 years;
  • she must be unmarried;
  • she must be at least 62;
  • he must be entitled to Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  • it must be at least two years since the divorce if he has not yet filed for benefits.

She met all those.