Would Filing For Reduced Widow's Benefits Now Affect My Own Social Security When I Reach Age 68?

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Feb 9 2018 - 7:35am

Greetings! Thank you for this type of venue. I have helped many people in my life and glad to see you are there for some of us. I will be 62 on Apr 11, 2018. I am a widow for 17 years. I recently was laid off and am on severance for 5 months. I believe I am eligible for SS widow's benefits (even with severance) and unemployment. The question is: Will this affect my own ss when I reach 68? Can I enroll for it now to help me? and, what is the min salary I can make without interrupting my late husbands SS benefits? Thanks and God Bless. I really need some good advice. Deb

Hi Deb,

No, it wouldn't. It sounds like you probably could draw for reduced widow's benefits now, at least until you return to work, but I can't say for sure whether or not that would be your best strategy. Unemployment benefits don't affect Social Security, but I believe that drawing Social Security could reduce your unemployment benefits. You may want to check with the agency paying your unemployment to find out.

If and when you do return to work, $1 of your Social Security benefits would need to be withheld for each $2 that you earn in excess of the yearly earnings test exempt amount, which is set at $17,040 this year (https://www.ssa.gov/planners/retire/whileworking2.html). However, there is no limit on earnings once you reach full retirement age.

Your best overall strategy is likely one of the following:
1) File for reduced widow's benefits now, then switch to your own record at age 70; or,
2) File for retirement benefits on your own record at age 62 or as soon as your earnings will permit benefits to be paid, then file for unreduced widow's benefits at your full retirement age.

Generally, you would want to start out drawing the lower benefit first and then switch to the higher record when it reaches it's highest potential rate. The maximization software available on this website can sort this all out for you and help you determine your best overall filing strategy.

Best, Jerry