Can Widow's Draw There Own Benefits At Age 64 With No Penalty For Work?

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Jan 8 2018 - 6:26am

Hi Larry, Here is a really complicated question that I hope you can help me make sense of related to widow's benefits. I could swear that at one time I heard that as a widow I could take my own full social security benefit 2 years early (so at age 64 instead of waiting until 66) without penalty for continuing to work. I would like to do that and switch to my late husband's social security benefit when it maxes out (would that be when he would have been 70 or when I would be 70)? I hope this makes sense. I am mainly concerned about whether I can begin taking my full benefit 2 years early. Have you heard of that?

Thank you,
Jeannie

Hi Jeannie,

No, there is no such rule. You can file for reduced retirement benefits on your own record as early as age 62, but your benefits would be subject to full or partial withholding based on the Social Security earnings test (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html) until you reach full retirement age (FRA). Being a widow does not exempt a person from the earnings test.

Your best strategy is almost certainly one of the following:
1) File for widow's benefits at age 60 or as soon as your earnings will permit benefits to be paid, then switch to your own record at age 70; or,
2) File for retirement benefits on your own record at age 62 or as soon as your earnings will permit benefits to be paid, then file for unreduced widow's benefits at your full retirement age. However, if your husband received reduced retirement benefits prior to his death, you would likely want to file for widow's benefits at some point prior to FRA.

Our maximization software can help you determine which of the above strategies would be best in your case, and it will tell you exactly which month would be the best time to file for each type of benefit.

Best, Jerry