When Should My Sister Claim Widow's Benefits?

Apr 30 2017 - 5:24pm

My sister is 59 (as of Feb 2017). She worked as a nurse for about 12 years and then became a stay at home mom. Her husband died in January 2017. They were married for more than 25 years. He was 66 and still working at the time of his death, although on a leave of absence. He was a high wage earner, making more than the SS max for most of his career. I am reading your book "Get What's Yours: Revised Secrets to Social Security." None of the examples for widows exactly encompasses my sister's situation. Should she wait until she is FRA to claim her survivor benefit? I think this is the case; otherwise, she would get the 28% penalty. Thank you.


You're correct that if your sister starts drawing widow's benefits at age 60, her benefit rate will be permanently reduced by 28.5%. From your description, it sounds like her optimal filing strategy would be to start drawing reduced retirement benefits on her own record at age 62, then file for unreduced widow's benefits at her full retirement age (FRA). However, if she is now or becomes disabled before FRA, she may have better options.

Your sister may want to consider using the software on this website to explore all of her filing options and determine her best strategy.

Best, Jerry