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Social Security, Savings Bonds and Stocks

Personal finance expert Jane Bryant Quinn answers readers' questions

Jane Bryant

Jane Bryant Quinn is a personal finance expert for AARP.

Q: My husband and I divorced after 20 years, and he has remarried. Which wife gets the Social Security benefits?

A: You both do. You and the new wife can each claim spousal benefits while he lives and survivor’s benefits when he dies. Neither of you gains (or loses) a dime just because there’s more than one of you on his account. The three main claiming rules for an ex: You were married for at least 10 years, you haven’t remarried and you’re 62 or older. You have one advantage over the current wife. She can’t claim spousal benefits until her husband files for retirement himself. A divorced wife can get those benefits even if her ex has not retired, provided that he’s eligible to claim and they’ve been divorced for two years or more.

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Q: I have a stack of U.S. savings bonds that are still earning interest, tax deferred. When I die, will the interest be taxable to my heirs?

A: One way or another, income taxes have to be paid. Your executors can report the income earned up to your day of death on your own final tax return, says Alison Flores of The Tax Institute at H&R Block. In that case, your heirs would owe taxes only on the interest earned later. Or, heirs can defer taxes until the bonds are redeemed or reach their final maturity date.

Q: I expect a 50 percent stock market correction in the next three to five years. I’m 68. How should I prepare?

A: On average, you’ll live 20 more years or longer! Even if stocks crash (and who knows?), you’ll have time to recover. Don’t give up on stock-owning mutual funds for growth. Depending entirely on bonds is a greater risk.

Jane Bryant Quinn is a personal finance expert and author of Making the Most of Your Money NOW.