Is The Information I Received From Social Security Correct?

Apr 17 2018 - 3:40pm

Hi Larry,

My ex-husband whom I was married to for over 19 years passed away in February 2016. He turned 62 in January of the year he passed. Since I was his caretaker I helped him sign up for Age 62 SS benefits 3-4 months prior to his 62nd birthday. Unfortunately, he passed away at 62 prior to receiving his first benefit check.

I am 61 now and inquired with Social Security in 2016 regarding the Survivors Benefit and was informed that my benefit would be equal to 1/2 of his benefit that would be paid at age 62. I did not apply for the benefit since I am also working. I want to confirm if this information is correct since he never received a dime from social security. It appears by signing up at 62 and not receiving a benefit that automatically the survivor is not eligible for his full retirement benefit.

Thank you! By the way I have your book and have actually bought and provided copies to friends.

Denise

Hi Denise,

Provided that your ex-husband died before becoming entitled to any reduced retirement benefits, the fact that he filed an advance application for those benefits won't adversely affect your potential survivor benefit rate. To correct what you were apparently told, though, your unreduced survivor benefit rate if you wait until full retirement age to start drawing those benefits would be equal to 100% of your husband's full retirement age rate (PIA) (https://www.ssa.gov/OP_Home/handbook/handbook.04/handbook-0407.html).

It sounds like your best strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for reduced surviving divorced spousal 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 surviving divorced spousal benefits at your full retirement age.

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 can help you sort all of this out and determine your best filing strategy.

Best, Jerry