Personal Finance

Retired or Getting Close and Thinking About Marriage? Here Are Four Things to Consider


by Alli Thomas

Sep 16, 2020

It’s no secret that there are numerous financial details to take into account and plan for when you’re preparing to get married. But if you (or your spouse) are close to retiring or have already retired, there are additional considerations to take into account:


Social Security

If you marry, your spouse’s income may impact your Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefit. If both you and your spouse receive SSI, the amount of your benefit will shift from an individual rate to a couple’s rate.

Many people who were previously married opt for cohabitation with their new partners rather than remarriage in order to collect their ex-spouse’s SSI benefit.

If you are divorced, you will still be eligible to collect your former spouse’s benefit if you satisfy the following criteria:

  1. You are at least 62 years old and have not remarried;
  2. You were married to your former spouse for at least ten consecutive years;
  3. Your former spouse is eligible for Social Security retirement or disability benefits; and
  4. The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your own work record is less than the benefit you would receive based on your former spouse’s work record.

If your former spouse qualifies for retirement benefits but has not yet applied, you can receive benefits on their record if you have been divorced for at least two years.

However, if you remarry, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse’s record unless your subsequent marriage ends (either by death, divorce, or annulment). Read more about Social Security retirement benefits for divorced people here.

If you are a widow or widower and you remarry after you reach age 60 (or age 50 if disabled), you are still eligible to receive survivor benefits—click here for more information.


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Employer-sponsored retirement plans

Many people believe that they can leave instructions in their will regarding 401(k) account distribution to their survivors. But the 401(k) plan’s beneficiary-designation form has the final say about who will inherit the account upon the participant’s death.

Except if you’re married: the laws that govern 401(k) plans require spouses to sign a waiver acknowledging that they are not named beneficiaries.

If you are married, it doesn’t matter who you’ve listed on the plan’s beneficiary-designation form; your spouse is legally entitled to inherit the money, unless he or she has signed the spousal waiver.

For example, if you are divorced and are remarrying, but your children from your previous marriage are your named 401(k) beneficiaries, make sure your new spouse signs the plan’s spousal waiver form. Simply updating your beneficiary designation form is not sufficient in the eyes of the law.

Read more about 401(k) spousal consent rules here.


Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)

Because IRAs are not subject to the same laws as 401(k) plans, there is no spousal consent required in naming other beneficiaries.

If you have an IRA, you are free to name whomever you’d like as your beneficiary, and you do not need to obtain spousal consent.



If you signed up for Medicare and marry (or remarry), you can opt to leave it if you become newly entitled to employer group-health insurance through your spouse’s health plan if he or she is still employed. If your spouse works for a company with more than 20 employees, make sure the health plan is the primary payer of your covered medical needs, and that Medicare is set up as the secondary payer.

If your spouse’s company has less than 20 employees, it’s likely that Medicare is the primary payer. Find out more here.

If you’re eligible for Social Security, you’re also eligible for the no-cost Medicare Part A hospital coverage once you reach age 65. Many financial planners say it’s a good idea to take advantage of this.

You may want to compare the cost of your Medicare coverage to the cost your spouse incurs for covering you on his or her health plan. Although it’s likely more expensive to be on your spouse’s plan, your Medicare coverage may be better.

Because there are many variables, consider speaking with a professional financial advisor before you tie the know. They can help you and your spouse determine the best plan of action based on your unique situation. Click here to request a no-obligation consultation.

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Alli Thomas

Alli Thomas has worked in the financial services industry for nearly 20 years, with a focus on retirement-related investing. She began her career as a FINRA-licensed participant-services call-center associate at Vanguard, and then moved to Principal Financial Group, where she worked closely with employers, assisting with retirement plan set-up and design, selecting appropriate plan investment offerings, and maximizing employee participation through targeted education campaigns and enrollment meetings. Alli has also worked as a qualified 401(k) administrator and registered investment advisor for several small investment firms. She now writes about all things investment- and finance-related, leveraging her extensive experience and passion for retirement planning to help investors make well-informed financial decisions.

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