Is My Best Strategy To File For My Own Benefits Now And Allow My Widow's Rate To Grow To 100% Or Greater?

Jan 14 2020 - 3:31pm

Larry,

I was widowed at 48 when my husband was 53 in 2006. I turned 62 in late November. I am waiting to claim my Survivor's Benefits until FRA or age 70. But, I have my own, much smaller work earnings record. I didn't realize I could "switch". Is my best option to claim benefits on my own work record now allowing my husband's to grow to 100% or greater, then switch to his at that time? I thought I had to choose my benefits or his, thus did not do anything in November when I turned 62. Have I now missed out on December 2019, January 2020 and perhaps February 2020 benefits since I didn't apply? S

Hi S,

I'm sorry for your loss.

Whatever you do, don't wait past your full retirement age (FRA) to claim widow's benefits. Unlike Social Security retirement benefits which are based on a person's own work record, survivor benefits do not get any higher if you wait past FRA to claim them.

Assuming that your unreduced widow's benefit rate would be higher than your own Social Security retirement benefit even if you waited until age 70 to claim your own benefits, your best strategy would almost certainly be to claim reduced retirement benefits now and then file for unreduced widow's benefits at FRA. However, if you work and have earnings, that could alter your optimal strategy depending on how much you earn. You may want to consider using our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to make sure you identify your best possible filing strategy. Unfortunately, you can't claim reduced benefits retroactively for months prior to your month of filing, so you'll want to act quickly to prevent any possible further loss of benefits.

Best, Jerry