What Is My Best Strategy?

Jan 20 2017 - 7:30am

My husband passed away 2 months ago at age 64. I am still working at age 65 and paying into SERS .I used to pay into social security for about 20 years but after changing career paths I no longer pay into social security. My question is, can I collect my husbands social security now and keep working and paying into my SERS? I'm working because of my medical coverage but it would help to have his social security since he has passed and I no longer have his income to pay bills. I hope this makes sense I would greatly appreciate your answers.

Hi,

I'm very sorry for your loss.

Whether or not you can receive widow's benefits now depends on the level of your earnings. The Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html) could limit what you can receive, if anything, prior to full retirement age. Still, if you could receive any benefits by filing now, it would probably advantageous to apply.

I'm assuming that you will eventually be receiving a pension from SERS. When that starts, you may no longer be able to receive widow's benefits due to the government pension offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf). However, it sounds like you should still be able to get retirement benefits on your own record, although the windfall elimination provision (WEP) will likely result in a lower benefit rate (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf).

The maximization software available on this website is programmed to consider the effects of both WEP and GPO, as well as the earnings test. The software should help you determine the best time to apply for widow's benefits as well as your own retirement benefits.

Best, Jerry