Ask Larry

Is There A Strategy That Maximizes Benefits In My Case?

My husband passed five years ago. I can collect widows benefits at 60. Is there a strategy that maximizing this process? For instance…can I collect window benefits then switch to my own benefits at max retirement age and that would then effectively be the highest rate possible if my income was in that bracket? Will my income be affected by collecting widow benefits or is it exempt at 60 should I collect. I don’t foresee remarrying.

Hi. I'm sorry for your loss. It sounds like your best strategy for claiming benefits would likely be one of the following:
1) File for reduced widow's benefits at age 60 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 collected reduced Social Security retirement benefits prior to his death, then you'd likely wouldn't want to wait until FRA to claim survivor benefits. And, if you'll be working after age 60, the best time to claim benefits would depend in part on how much you'll be earning.

The short answer is that the best plan for someone in your situation is basically to start drawing the lower of the two benefit rates first and then switch to the higher benefit when it reaches its highest potential rate. Our software ( could help sort all of this out for you so that you can determine the optimal strategy for maximizing your benefits.

Best, Jerry

Jan 23 2023 - 5:45pm
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