If you have lost a spouse and both of you have a work history, then you have several choices for claiming Social Security benefits as a survivor. It's important to carefully consider your options to be sure your get all the benefits to which you are entitled.
In general, Social Security survivor benefits are 100% of your spouse’s benefits. If your spouse was receiving Social Security at the time of her death, then the survivor benefit is 100% of her benefit at the time of death. If she died prior to starting benefits, then the survivor benefit is 100% of what her benefits would have been at her full retirement age.
But, when do you turn on the survivor benefits? Here are the general guidelines:
- Survivors aged 70 and older should simply compare their retirement benefits with that of the deceased spouse and take the higher of the two amounts.
- Survivors between full retirement age for survivor benefits and 70: Assuming the survivor has not yet begun their retirement benefits, and the high earner dies, the best strategy is for the surviving spouse to begin survivor benefits and switch to their own at age 70, if it is higher. The survivor will benefit from annual increases in their benefit each year it remains unclaimed up to their age 70.
- Survivors younger than age 60 should calculate the reduced survivor benefit they would receive at age 60 and project that forward to their age 70. Then, compare that amount to their own benefit if they delayed claiming to age 70.
- The survivor becomes eligible for survivor benefits at age 60. The amount will be reduced by 28.5% if you begin claiming at age 60. The benefit will increase each year based on the Social Security COLA each year.
- If the survivor does NOT claim their own benefit, their benefit is increased each year until they reach age 70.
The comparisons can be confusing. That’s one reason I have invested in tools and training to make sure I can help my clients calculate their best options. If you would like help figuring out how to maximize your Social Security benefits, maybe we should talk. I help all my clients get the most from Social Security. I would LOVE to talk with you about your situation. Follow this LINK to find a time that works for you.
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If this article has you thinking about your own circumstances, contact my office at email@example.com. I am always happy to meet with people who are working on their retirement plans. Dunncreek Advisors does not provide legal or tax advice, nor is this article intended to do so.