Am I Eligible For Survivor Benefits On My Ex-Husband's Record?

Jan 31 2017 - 6:30am

I am a soon to be 64 year old currently working and making more than 65K a year. My ex-husband died. We had been married 13 years. I believe his average lifetime salary would have been less than mine. A friend told me she is collecting a monthly SS benefit from her ex-spouse, still living but age and income are similar. I was told by my local SS office that the only way I could collect a benefit before age 66 would be if my income was 17K. Am I eligible now or will I be eligible for any benefits once I retire?

Hi,

Assuming that you're unmarried now, it sounds like you'd be eligible for surviving divorced spouse's benefits but your earnings would likely keep you from receiving any benefits if you filed now. This is because of the Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html), which can limit the payment of benefits prior to full retirement age.

Your best strategy is likely one of the following:
1) Start drawing survivor benefits as soon as your earnings will permit, then switch to your own record at age 70; or,
2) Start drawing your own retirement benefits as soon as your earnings will permit, then file for survivor benefits at age 66.

The maximization software available on this website should be able to tell you which of the above strategies is best in your case. The software is also programmed to handle the earnings test, so it can tell you when you would first be able to start drawing benefits given your earnings level.

Best, Jerry