Will I Get More Of My Husband's Benefits Now That I'm 66?

Feb 1 2019 - 7:18pm

My husband and I were married 9 months and 22 days before he passed away on April 4, 2016.He as 66, born in 1949 . I was 63..He received $2400 dollars in SS a month..I only got about $1000 of his added to mine..Obviously he made more than me..I started getting SS at 62.. Will I get more from his now that I'm 66, my full retirement age? THANKS, GAIL

Hi Gail,

I'm sorry for your loss.

No, if you've been drawing an excess widow's benefit since your husband died there wouldn't be any adjustment of your benefit rate simply because you've now reached your full retirement age (FRA) of 66. Here's an example to explain how excess widow's benefits are calculated when a spouse with the higher benefit rate dies when their spouse is already receiving their Social Security retirement benefits.

Say Sally started receiving reduced Social Security retirement benefits at age 62 with a benefit rate of $1000. Sally's husband started drawing his benefits at his FRA of 66, and received an unreduced benefit amount of $2400. Sally's husband dies when Sally reaches age 63, at which point Sally can choose to either start drawing a reduced widow's rate immediately, or wait until she reaches FRA in order to receive an unreduced widow's rate.

If Sally chooses to wait until her FRA to file for widow's benefits, she would continue to receive only her own reduced retirement benefit of $1000 until she reaches FRA. Then, starting with FRA, Sally could claim an additional unreduced excess widow's benefit equal to the difference between her husband's rate and her own rate. In this example, that would result in an excess widow's benefit of $1400 (i.e. $2400 - $1000), which would result in a combined benefit rate equal to her husband's full amount of $2400.

However, if Sally chooses instead to start drawing her widow's benefit at age 63, her widow's rate would be reduced for age. In Sally's case her reduced excess widow's rate would be calculated by reducing her husband's full benefit amount of $2400 by 14.25%, and then subtracting her own reduced benefit rate of $1000. The resulting excess widow's rate of $1058 (i.e. $2400 x .8575 - $1000), would then be added to Sally's reduced retirement benefit to give her a combined rate of $2058.

Whether or not your decision to start drawing your widow's benefits at age 63 rather than waiting until FRA was advisable depends on whether or not your husband started receiving his retirement benefits prior to FRA. If he didn't, you could have claimed a higher monthly rate by waiting until your FRA to start drawing widow's benefits. However, if your husband started drawing his benefits early like you did, there may have been little or no advantage to waiting to claim your widow's benefits. In any case, though, the rate reduction that you opted for in order to start drawing your widow's benefits early would not go away as a result of your reaching FRA.

Best, Jerry