Can I Take Reduced Widow's Benefits Now And Still Get A Full Widow's Benefit In The Future?

Category: 
Mar 15 2017 - 10:30am

Hi,

I have a basic question that I was unable to receive a straight answer to from the SS representative whom I spoke with.

My husband, 9yrs 4 mo older than me, died in January, 2017. He worked until 70 and was receiving full SS benefits from about 70 to presnt. I am working full time. I was told that I can only make a certain amount of money (toward $17,00) and then there is a rated system for every couple of dollars I make and this reduces the benefit to over $400 less a month than I would recieve if I was at my full retirement of 66 years old.

Presently I am about 63.5 years old. If I take the decreased widow benefit now, when I am ready to retire will I be able to take my husband's full SS amount (all is higher than mine) to recoup the $400+ for the future? Or will I be stuck at the lower price for my lifetime?

At one point the rep said I get the maximum amount (which husband had been drawing) even if I start to pull benefits now; at another point she said the benefit I get presently will be the benefit I stay at.

Have ordered your book, can't wait to read it, but I want to make the right decision to maximize since my husband was so conscientious in waiting until 70 to get his benefits.

Looks like I had better also load up the software - ordered your book and am awaiting it to be sent to me via mail.

Thanks so much!

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

You can't receive reduced widow's benefits prior to full retirement age (FRA) and still receive the full unreduced amount at FRA or later. However, if you take reduced widow's benefits now and some of your benefits are withheld due to the Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html), your widow's rate will be adjusted after you reach FRA to credit you for the months that your benefits were withheld. Even after the adjustment, though, you would still be stuck with a permanent reduction for the months you were paid your widow's benefits prior to FRA.

Assuming that your husband did not receive any of his benefits prior to FRA, your best strategy is likely to file for reduced benefits on your own record now, and then switch to unreduced widow's benefits at age 66. That's just my best guess based on incomplete information, however, so you will likely want to run the maximization software on this site in order to be sure that you choose the best possible strategy.

Best, Jerry