Dear Liz: You recently responded to a woman about collecting on her ex-husband’s social security record. You said she was eligible for a spousal benefit if they had been married for at least 10 years, which they were. I think you should have added that the spouse must collect their own social security when you apply.

A Social Security rep told me I had to wait until my ex retired and then I would automatically get the larger benefit. I waited. Eventually I asked my ex and he told me he started collecting social security a few months ago. I applied and got a retroactive payment.

Answer: Unfortunately, people don’t always get the correct information from Social Security officials.

You didn’t have to wait for your ex to start collecting Social Security to apply for Divorced Spouse Benefit. Although this is a requirement for still-married couples – the main worker must apply for their own benefit to trigger a spousal benefit – a divorced spouse only has to wait until their ex is 62 and eligible to receive checks. social security pension.

The rep you spoke to may not have understood that you were talking about an ex rather than a current husband, or the rep may have been confused about the rules.

Because Social Security can be so complicated, it makes sense to educate yourself as much as possible about the rules. Books like “Social Security for Dummies” by Jonathan Peterson can be helpful; just be sure to get the latest edition, as the rules for spousal benefits changed significantly in 2015.

Liz Weston, Certified Financial Planner, is a personal finance columnist for Nerd Wallet. Questions can be sent to him at 3940 Laurel Canyon, No. 238, Studio City, CA 91604, or by using the “Contact” form at