Can I Get Widow's Benefits At Age 60 If I'm Earning $35,000 A Year?

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Jul 22 2019 - 11:15am

Can I get widows benefits at age 60 if I’m making 35,000 a year?

Hi,

You might be able to draw benefits for part of the year, but Social Security would need to withhold $1 of your benefits for each $2 that your earnings exceed $17640 in 2019.

For example, say Julie files for reduced widow's benefits when she turns age 60 in January 2019. Julie's reduced monthly widow's rate is $1085, but Julie is still working and plans to earn $35,000 in 2019. As a result, Social Security would need to withhold $8680 (i.e. ($35000 - $17640)/2) of Julie's 2019 benefits, which they would do by withholding Julie's entire check for as long as it takes to cover the required amount. In Julie's case, it would take 8 months of her benefits to withhold $8680 (i.e. $1085 x 8), so Social Security would not pay Julie any benefits for the months January through August. However, Julie could be paid her full monthly rate of $1085 for September through December of 2019.

In the example above, if Julie hadn't reached age 60 until May of 2019 or later, she could not be paid any benefit for 2019. That's because Julie would then not be eligible for more than $8680 of benefits in 2019, so all of her benefits would need to be withheld. There is, however, an alternate monthly earnings test that can be used in the first year of a person's eligibility. That test permits eligible people to be paid for any month in 2019 in which their earnings don't exceed $1470 (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/rule.html), regardless of how much they earn in the calendar year.

It sounds like your best strategy for claiming benefits might be one of the following:
1) File for reduced widow's benefits at age 60 or as soon as your earnings will permit at least some benefits to be paid, then switch to your own record at age 70; or,
2) File for reduced retirement benefits on your own record at age 62 or as soon as your earnings will permit at least some benefits to be paid, then file for unreduced widow's benefits at full retirement age (FRA). However, if your spouse received reduced retirement benefits prior to his death then it would probably be better to file for widow's benefits at some time prior to FRA.

Normally, you would want to start out drawing the lower benefit first and then switch to the higher record when it reaches it's highest potential rate. Our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) could sort all of this out for you and help you determine your optimal filing strategy.

Best, Jerry