When Can I Apply For My Reduced Widow's Benefits?

Category: 
Jan 22 2019 - 10:11am

I will be 60 this September. When can i apply for my reduced widows benefits?my husband and i were married 7 years. He passed away 8 years ago and i never remarried. We live in South Carolina.

Hi,

I'm sorry for your loss.

If you reach age 60 in September 2019, you could claim reduced widow's benefits as early at that month. And, if you happen to have been born on September 1st, you could even claim benefits as early as August 2019. You can file an application up to 4 months in advance of the month that you want to claim benefits, so it sounds like you could potentially apply as early as April or May of this year depending on your day of birth.

Before filing, though, you'll want to make sure that filing for widow's benefits at age 60 is your best option. If you file for widow's benefits at age 60 your rate will be reduced by 28.5%, and you may be permanently stuck with that lower rate unless you can later switch to a higher benefit amount on your own record. Furthermore, if you are working there is a limit on how much you're allowed to earn prior to full retirement age without having some or all of your benefits withheld (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking.html).

If you've worked and paid into Social Security long enough to be eligible for retirement benefits on your own work record, your best option is likely 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 received reduced Social Security retirement benefits prior to his death, then it would likely be more advantageous to claim widow's benefits at some point prior to your FRA.

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 could sort all of this out for you and help you determine your optimal strategy.

Best, Jerry