Should My Wife File At Age 62 If She Expects To Receive A Survivor Pension From My Work?

Nov 20 2017 - 7:22am

I will be receiving a govt. pension from being a teacher in CA. I will be receiving only a small Social Security benefit (due to only 12 credited years and WPA and GPO). My wife is ten years younger and will collect a substantial portion of my pension when I'm gone - which will be much greater than her SS benefits (also affected by WPA and GPO when she gets my pension). My question is, should she collect her SS benefits at 62 so she can maximize the number of years that she will get a benefit until she collects my pension, which will reduce her SS benefits to a small amount (she'll have about 20 years credit). Let's say I die at 80 - she will then have had 18 years of collecting reduced benefits before getting my pension, with only a small SS amount. We will both benefit from the increased income during the time I'm alive. Thanks John

Hi John,

If your wife receives a survivor pension based on your work as a teacher, that will not cause her Social Security benefit rate to be reduced. The only government pensions that cause a reduction to a person's Social Security benefit rate are pensions based on the person's OWN earnings that were exempt from Social Security taxes. That's true for both the WEP (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10045.pdf) and GPO (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10007.pdf) provisions.

Thus, it sounds like the premise of your question is flawed. The decision on when to start drawing benefits is a personal one that each person must make for themselves. However, your wife should strongly consider using the maximization software available on this website to compare all of her options so that she can make an educated choice.

Best, Jerry