When Should I Start Collecting Widow's Benefits?

Mar 16 2017 - 8:00am

I am 65 years old and turning 66 in May. My husband has been deceased since 2007. I am a school teacher in Florida and worked for 13 years. My husbands Social Security would be much more than mine . I am still going to work hopefully until I am 69. I am in a drop program. When I spoke to someone from Social Security, I explained that I would be taking my husbands benefits at 66. When I no longer work, I will be receiving a small pension. Social Security said that there is a possibility that there would be a reduction in my benefits when I stop working due to the fact that I would be receiving a pension. I never heard of this!. Aren't I allowed to collect pension and the full amount of Social Security? What is the best route to go in my situation as well. Also , do I collect now or wait until I am 70? I thought it wouldn't matter because if I am taking my husbands benefits, they won't increase if I take it at 70. I could not catch up to what his benefits are. What is a widows benefit and am I entitled to collect mine and a portion of his?

Hi,

You wouldn't want to wait past age 66 to file for your widow's benefits, since they won't be any higher if you do. You can only receive the higher of your own benefit rate or your widow's rate, so unless your own benefit rate would be higher at age 70 than your widow's rate, there is probably no advantage to ever filing on your own record. If your own rate is less than the widow's rate and you file for both, you would receive your own rate plus the difference in the rates (i.e. a combined benefit equal to the full widow's rate).

If your wages as a teacher are exempt from Social Security taxes, your teacher's pension will likely cause a reduction in your widow's rate when you start drawing your pension. This is due to the Government Pension Offset (GPO) provision (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf), which mandates an offset of widow's benefits in the amount of 2/3rds of the rate of the non-covered government pension. A different provision, the Windfall Elimination Provision, or WEP (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf), could affect the retirement benefit rate on your own record as well.

The maximization software available on this website is programmed to handle both the GPO and WEP provisions, so you may want to run the software in order to explore the impact of your various filing options.

Best, Jerry