Is There An Earnings Limit If I File For Widow's Benefits At Age 60?

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Jun 21 2017 - 6:56am

Hello,
I have two different questions. My husband passed away in 2011 at the age of 53. I am 57 and have been told that I can collect his social security when I am 60 if I do not remarry. Is there an earnings limit on income I can make in order to collect? I work full time and bring in $44,500 a year. This is important as he did not get to collect, I feel it is only right I can collect for him as he worked hard in life. I recently have been blessed to find a wonderful man and he would like to marry, if I do not marry until 60 is there also a common law marriage rule for social security since we are living together?
Thank you,
Dee

Hi Dee,

Yes, if you file for benefits prior to full retirement age (FRA) and continue working, the Social Security earnings test may limit how much you could receive in benefits. For beneficiaries who are below FRA in 2017, $1 of benefits are withheld for each $2 that they earn in excess of $16,920 (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html). The earnings test applies to reduced widow's benefits as well as reduced retirement benefits.

If you remarry prior to age 60, you wouldn't be able to draw widow's benefits for as long as your remarriage continues. However, remarriages occurring at or after age 60 do not preclude entitlement on a prior deceased spouse's record.

A few states, including Montana, do recognize common law marriage (https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/poms.nsf/lnx/0200305075), but that entails more than simply living together. I'm not a lawyer, though, so may want to seek professional advice if that's what you are considering.

Assuming that you don't remarry before age 60, your best filing strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for reduced 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 reduced retirement benefits at age 62 or as soon as your earnings will permit benefits to be paid, then file for unreduced widow's benefits at full retirement age.

The maximization software available on this website can help you determine which of the above filing strategies is best in your case, as well as when to apply for each type of benefit.

Best, Jerry