Can I File For Reduced Benefits At Age 62 And Unreduced Widow's Benefits At Age 66?

Mar 30 2017 - 9:30am

Hello. I'll be eligible for social security in about a year and have been trying to get smart regarding my options. I'm not clear on the new deeming rules as they pertain (or if they pertain) to spousal benefits for someone who is already a widow.

I read on and elsewhere that in order (for a wife) to receive a spousal benefit the other spouse (her husband) must have already filed for their (his) benefit. But I can find no example of a situation where the other spouse (husband) is deceased and never filed. Is a widow even entitled to a spousal benefit?

My husband died last year at age 60 so he never had a chance to file. When I turned 60 I knew I could draw a survivor benefit but it would be significantly reduced, but if I waited until my FRA I would receive the full amount. When I turn 62 can I draw a (reduced) spousal benefit -- as a low wage earner my spousal benefit will always be higher than what I would receive on my own record -- and deeming says applying for one means you're applying for the other. But does deeming also mean I'd be applying for a survivor benefit as well?

I want to delay taking a survivor benefit until I reach my FRA but I still want a reduced retirement (on my own record or, preferably, the higher spousal benefit) at age 62. Can I receive a reduced spousal benefit at age 62 and then switch to an unreduced survivor benefit at FRA?


I'm sorry for your loss.

Deeming doesn't apply to retirement and survivor benefits, so you can file for one type of benefit without also filing for the other. Spousal benefits refer to benefits payable on a living spouse's record. You will be eligible for widow's benefits rather than spousal benefits.

Based on your description of your and your husband's benefit rates, your best strategy is likely to file for reduced retirement benefits on your own record at age 62, then file for unreduced widow's benefits when you reach full retirement age (FRA). If you were born in 1956 or earlier, your FRA for widow's benefits is age 66. You may want to run the maximization software available on this website to make sure that this is your best option.

Best, Jerry