I am 59 and plan to stop working at age 60 to collect survivor benefits (my husband passed away in Jan 2017). I think I will work very part time for a few years (keeping it under the earnings limit of $17k to avoid reducing my SS benefit). I plan to switch to my retirement benefit at age 70 when it is at its maximum. My question -- will my retirement benefit at age 70 be reduced if I work part time for a few years? Will it change my monthly benefit amount? I've been working since about age 15 so certainly way more than 35 years. But of course those early first few years were small amounts of money. Thank you!
I'm sorry for your loss.
Your primary insurance amount (PIA), which is the amount of your Social Security retirement benefit if you start drawing at your full retirement age (FRA), is calculated based on your highest 35 years of wage-indexed earnings (https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10070.pdf). You can't lower your PIA by stopping work, but you won't increase it either. Likewise, If you work part-time you can't reduce your PIA, but you also probably won't increase it much if at all. And, if you're going by the benefit estimates on the benefit statements that Social Security periodically mails out or makes available online, you should be aware that those benefit estimates are generally based in part on an assumed level of future earnings. So, if your actual future earnings end up lower than the amount used by Social Security on your benefit statement, your actual benefit rate may not be as high as the Social Security statement indicates.
Even if you stop work, though, your Social Security retirement benefit rate will be somewhere between 24% to 32% higher than your PIA if you wait until age 70 to start drawing your retirement benefit. The exact percentage depends on whether your FRA is age 66 or age 67 or somewhere in between. Your plan for claiming benefits is probably sound provided that your own retirement rate at age 70 will be higher than your unreduced widow's rate, but you may want to strongly consider using our software (https://maximizemysocialsecurity.com/purchase) to make sure that you're choosing the best possible strategy. The software would allow you to input your expected future part time earnings so that you could determine what if any effect those earnings would have on your retirement benefit rate.