How Much Can I Earn If I'm Collecting Widow's Benefits?

Jan 22 2019 - 3:18pm

Hi Larry. I am 60 years old and lost my husband in October 2017 - he had just turned 65.

I am working but my job may be eliminated later this year and I am concerned, due to my age, that a job search will be challenging.

I want to know what my options are if I find myself unemployed. Last time I checked my expected full SS benefits will be just shy of my husband's. Would I be able to apply for widow's benefits while accepting unemployment? And if I find a job while collecting widow's benefits how much can I earn? And how would those benefits affect my ability to draw full benefits later?

Thanks so much for you advice.


Hi Carrie,

I'm sorry for your loss.

If you file for reduced widow's benefits this year you could earn up to $17640 in 2019 without losing any of your benefits. Unemployment benefits don't count toward that limit, but if you're drawing Social Security benefits it might affect the amount that you could be paid in unemployment insurance. My expertise is limited to Social Security benefits, though, so I can only tell you that if you receive unemployment insurance it wouldn't have any effect on your ability to receive Social Security benefits.

It sounds like your best strategy would likely be one of the following:
1) File for reduced widow's benefits now 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 your full retirement age (FRA). However, if your husband received reduced Social Security retirement benefits prior to his death, then it would likely be more advantageous to claim widow's benefits at some point prior to your 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 maximization software could sort all of this out for you and help you determine your optimal strategy.

Best, Jerry