This is my 150th blog. I have always been somewhat amused that our social security system encourages multiple marriages. This issue is highlighted in “Divorce and Social Security: A Rocky Marriage,” by Eugene Steuerle and Christopher Spiro. They state as follows:
“A serial spouse can leave the public holding the bill for multiple ex-spouses, all of whom could receive full benefits.
Spousal and survivor benefits—which entitle the lower earner of a couple to half the higher earner’s benefit and to all of the benefit if the higher earner dies—were designed in 1939, before divorce was common. For this reason, the original legislation paid little attention to how the breakup of a marriage would affect such benefits. By 1965, however, divorce could not be overlooked, and policymakers included a provision allowing the lower earner to keep his or her benefits upon divorce, provided the marriage had lasted at least 20 years. Eligibility was extended to those with only 10 years of marriage or more in 1977.
When it was first introduced, the divorce provision was a way to protect a small number of lower earners after their marriages ended. Today, far more people are affected by this provision than its designers could have foreseen. Ten percent of U.S. adults are divorced now, whereas only 3 percent were in 1970. This sharp increase should induce policymakers to reexamine some of the idiosyncrasies of the divorce provision. For example:
A marriage shy of 10 years does not count. The selection of 10 years as the length of time a couple must be married before being eligible for spousal and survivor benefits upon divorce is arbitrary.
Divorced people can face a remarriage penalty. Divorced people who remarry before age 60 can lose the spousal or survivor benefit from a previous marriage. When that benefit is greater than the spousal benefit that would result from remarriage, divorced people face a significant disincentive to remarry.
A serial spouse leaves the public holding the bill. A higher earner who has many marriages, each lasting more than 10 years, can generate much more in spousal benefits than a worker who pays the same amount of taxes and marries only once. Thus, taxpayers in general can be forced to subsidize a person who marries and divorces several times, whereas that person bears no responsibility within Social Security for his or her marriages.” http://www.urban.org/publications/309287.html
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