Would My Widow's Benefit Rate Be Increased If I Don't Receive Some Of My Benefits Due To Excess Earnings?

Mar 13 2019 - 9:54am

If I am to start to receive widow social security benefits at age 60 in 2019. I understand that If I get a job and earn more than the amount allowed under Social Security's earnings test my benefits will be either fully or partially suspended due to my excess earnings. So say, I had no job in 2019, but made $20,000 in 2020 and $70,000 in 2021, but expect to have no earnings in the years after 2021. Should I then expect to receive higher widow benefits (as compared to no work scenario) in the years after 2021 because social security would give me a credit for suspending my widow benefits partially in 2020 and fully in 2021?


Yes, that's possible. Social Security adjusts the reduction rate applied to widow(er) benefits effective at age 62 for widow(er)'s who start drawing benefits prior to age 62 but who don't receive all of their benefits due to the earnings test.

For example, say Mary files for widow's benefits this year at age 60. Mary's unreduced widow's rate would be $2000 if she waited until full retirement age (FRA) to start drawing, but her reduced age 60 rate is $1430. The total reduction percentage of 28.5% actually represents a reduction rate of .36538% for each of the 78 months that Mary is filing prior to her FRA for widow's benefits, which is 66 & 6 months in her case.

If Mary works and has excess earnings between age 60 and FRA, her widow's rate can be adjusted both at age 62 and at FRA to credit her for any months that her benefits are not paid as the result of Social Security's earnings test. So, if Mary only ends up being paid for 12 of the 24 months between ages 60 & 62 for example, her widow's rate effective at age 62 would be increased from $1430 to roughly $1517. The increase would result from Social Security removing the .36538% reduction applied for each of the 12 months that Mary was not paid benefits due to the earnings test between ages 60 & 62. The same process would be done again effective at Mary's FRA if her benefits are suspended due to the earnings test for any months between ages 62 & FRA.

Best, Jerry