When Can I File for My Widow's Benefit?

Jun 30 2016 - 6:45pm

Hi, I retired in 2011 (27 years) at age 49 and withdrew my retirement (extremely dumb move I know) from state government. My husband was still working in the construction industry and we maintained by downsizing, but started up a small business in anticipation of his retiring at the end of 2013. In 2013 my 53 yr old husband passed away unexpectedly of a massive heart attack approximately 6 weeks after he was laid off from his job. I received $200+ burial from SSA and he had a small life insurance policy from the employer he was laid off from. I went to SSA office and was told my husband had fulfilled his full work requirements for Social Security, but I needed to return to work for 10 years or get to 60 years of age to be eligible for his Social Security. I was 51 when he passed, am now 53. I returned to work one year after he passed and have been working ever since. Fortunately everything was paid off when I retired and we downsized to a smaller home (i.e. smaller mortgage) when I drew down my retirement in 2011. The business we started I no longer had the passion or emotional energy to perform, so I ended it and I kept and still use the equipment (landscaping) in my yard.

So my questions are: 1. Is that correct policy I received from the SSA? (we did not have children together and his kids and my kids are now adults). 2. Will I still be able to receive my own social security when it's time? I have a biological adult son (23, who lives at home with me) and gainfully employed. Would he be eligible for either of our social security benefits now or in the future? Thanks, Rea

Rea, I'm sorry for your loss. The earliest you can receive your widow's benefit is 60, although it will be reduced if you file for it then. If you wait until your full retirement age (FRA), which for you is 67, it will not be reduced. You can file for your reduced widow's benefit at 60 and then file for your retirement benefit later, either at your FRA or at 70 when it would be 24% higher than at FRA due to the 8% per year delayed retirement credits. Whether this is your best strategy depends on your and your husband's earnings histories. If he was the higher earner, it might be better to file early for your reduced retirement benefit at 62 and then switch to your unreduced and larger widow's benefit at FRA. Your son could only receive a benefit on your record if he became permanently disabled before 22. Our software can determine the filing strategy that will maximize your benefits. Thanks, John