Will Social Security Raise My Own Benefit Because Of My Earnings?

Sep 23 2019 - 8:14am

Dear Larry,

First of all thank you for the prompt response from your team to my question in July. Due to your response, SSA changed the wording on the letter that they sent me regarding widow's benefits. The first letter said that I was only due money for widow's benefits dating back to May 2019. After I informed them about the information I received from you, they changed the letter to state that I was due money dating back to January 2019!

We had planned to let my husband’s benefit grow until he was age 70. In the meantime, I started taking my benefit at age 66 so that he could take a spousal benefit (he was 67 at the time). We used your software program and determined that this strategy would help us maximize our social security. However, his unexpected early death was not calculated into our planning.

Here is my current question. The latest letter from SSA states: “Your benefit is $510.90 as a widow. This is in addition to the benefit of $1,546.10 on your own earnings record.” I am still working at age 67 and I am making more money both last year and this year than in any previous years of my entire work life. Will SSA increase the portion of the total benefit that is based on my own earnings record, due to my increased income in these last two years?


Hi Louise,

I'm happy that we were able to help you. The benefit rate that you qualify for from your own record may increase as a result of your continued earnings, but if it does it will result if a dollar for dollar reduction in your widow's benefit rate. That's because you can only receive the higher of your own Social Security retirement benefit rate or your widow's benefit rate, not both. In your case, your widow's rate is apparently $2057, but since you're also entitled to your own benefits Social Security pays that benefit first and pays the difference between the 2 amounts as a partial widow's benefit (i.e. $1546.10 + $510.90 = $2057).

It's extremely unlikely that you could raise your own benefit rate to more than $2057, so in all likelihood your total benefit payment amount will stay the same (except for cost of living increases) regardless of how much you are earning.

Best, Jerry