Geezers, Floozies, and Valentines

When old Geezer passes away, his ex-wife, Floozie, is also eligible for widows benefits.
Geezers, Floozies, and Valentines
Social Security is a common topic of discussion among retirees. (oneinchpunch/Shutterstock)
Tom Margenau

This column should be coming out around Valentine’s Day. And it was 50 years ago, on Valentine’s Day, that my soon-to-be wife and I went out on our first date. How that came about makes for a cute story.

I had just started working for the Social Security office in the small farming community of Litchfield, Illinois. I had moved there from my hometown in Wisconsin just a month or so before. So I didn’t know anybody in town.

One of my duties was to verify Medicare numbers for the billing department of the Litchfield hospital. A local lass named Becky worked in that department and called me every day to check those numbers.

Becky’s boss knew that she was single and somehow learned that I was single, too. And he decided to play matchmaker. He invited me to the hospital for lunch. But the real purpose was so that I could meet Becky.

If it wasn’t love at first sight, it was close. And I was smitten enough that a week or so later, I finally worked up the courage to call Becky and ask her out on a date. And being the poster boy for anxiety and anal retentiveness, I had scripted out my entire conversation with her. It was in diagram form. For example, if she said yes, it led to one series of questions and comments. If she said no, it led to another and much shorter series of questions and comments.

Fortunately, after some nervous small talk, her answer to my first question (“Hey, do you want to go to a movie?”) was “Yes.” So that led me down the positive side of my scripted question list.

I was asking her out to the hit movie of the time, “American Graffiti,” about the last summer together of a group of high school seniors. The movie supposedly took place in 1962, and the tagline for the movie was “Where were you in ‘62?”

And that led to one of my clever scripted questions, “Hey Becky, where were you in ‘62?” Now in 1962, I was in 7th grade. And based on my one meeting with Becky at the hospital, I guessed she was about my age. So her answer surprised me. She said, “Oh, 1962 was the year I graduated from high school.”

Oh, my god! There was nothing on my sheet of questions that covered that answer! I was asking an “older woman” out on a date! I stammered! I panicked!

I gave some thought to saying, “Oh wait a minute, I can’t go out. I’m polishing my shoes that evening.” There was nothing in my script to save me. I didn’t know what to do!

OK, long story short, I ended up going out on the date. And now here it is, 50 years later. Becky is still five years older than me. But I’ve long since gotten over the shock and panic of that discovery and I’ve been back on script ever since.

But that story reminds me that not everyone stays married forever. And the rest of this column deals with folks whose marriages didn’t last as long as ours has.

Q: I’m part of a group of old geezers who gets together every week at the local coffee place. Social Security is a frequent topic of conversation. At our last meeting, the subject of benefits for divorcees came up. One of our geezers was married to his first wife for 16 years and has been married to his second wife for 30 years. His first wife remarried, but she is now divorced from that guy after 20 years of marriage. Our geezer pal is curious who will get what when he dies. He’s mostly wondering if his first wife will get Social Security from him or from her second husband.

A: Well, the answer depends on a lot of “ifs ands or buts” not made clear in your email to me—such as people’s ages and Social Security benefit rates. So I'll make up a scenario to give you an example of how all this would play out. We’ve got four people:
  • Geezer is 68 years old, started his benefits at age 67 and gets $2,100 per month from Social Security.
  • Princess, his current wife, is 62 and gets her own Social Security retirement benefit amounting to $900 per month.
  • Floozie, Geezer’s first wife, is 68, and she gets $1,200 per month in her own Social Security retirement checks.
  • Wheezer is Floozie’s second husband, the guy she divorced after 20 years of marriage. Let’s say he is 70, still living, and gets $2,200 per month from Social Security.
And now let’s say Geezer dies, and we‘ll see what happens. Princess has a couple choices to make. If she wants, she can immediately switch to widow’s benefits. She’d keep getting her own retirement check, and that would be supplemented up to about 82 percent of his full rate, or about $1,722. So, she'd get $900 on her own account and $822 in widow’s benefits.

Or, she can opt to continue receiving just her $900 retirement check for now, and then at age 67 get that supplemented up to Geezer’s full rate. So, at age 67 she‘d get her own $900 plus $1,200 in widow’s benefits for a total of $2,100. And no matter which decision she makes, she’d get the one-time $255 death benefit.

Floozie is also eligible for widow’s benefits on Geezer’s record, because she was married to him for more than 10 years and she is currently unmarried. Since she is over her full retirement age, her own retirement benefit can be supplemented up to Geezer’s full rate. So, she‘ll continue to get her own $1,200 per month, and she’ll get $900 from Geezer’s account to take her up to Geezer’s full $2,100 benefit rate. (And please note that anything paid to Floozie, the divorced wife, doesn’t take a nickel away from the benefits due to Princess.)

Floozie isn’t due anything on Wheezer’s (her second husband’s) Social Security account—at least not while he is still living. She’s technically due a divorced wife’s benefit (at a 50 percent rate) on his record, but she can’t get that because her own benefit, $1,200, exceeds half his rate, or $1,100. And of course, now that we also add in Geezer’s widow’s benefit, her combined Social Security benefits greatly exceed anything she is due from Wheezer.

However, when Wheezer dies, she can then switch to divorced widow’s benefits on his record. Her checks from Geezer would stop. And her own $1,200 retirement benefit would be supplemented with $1,000 from Wheezer’s record to take her total income up to $2,200.

Is the moral of this story to be a Floozie, dump a Geezer, marry a Wheezer, then dump him, too, and hope they both die—then watch the checks roll in? You tell me! And should I worry that after 50 years, Becky will start looking around for a Geezer or Wheezer to replace me? Probably not. She’s already got quite a Doozie!

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If you have a Social Security question, Tom Margenau has a book with all the answers. It's called "Social Security -- Simple and Smart." You can find the book at or look for it on Amazon or other book outlets. To find out more about Tom Margenau and to read past columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at
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