Social Security When A Spouse Dies: Survivor Benefits Guide
If your spouse dies and you have reached full retirement age, youre eligible for 100% of their benefits.
- If your spouse dies and you have reached full retirement age, youre eligible for 100% of their benefits.
- If your spouse retired before full retirement age, they received a reduced retirement benefit and you will receive reduced survivors benefits.
- Children up to age 18 and dependent parents may also be eligible for survivors benefits.
Losing a spouse is one of the most stressful events you can go through. In addition to the emotional turmoil and grief, youll also have to figure out finances. When a spouse dies, the surviving spouse is eligible to receive survivor benefits from the Social Security Administration . In this article, well go over the rules and exceptions for receiving these benefits and enable you to build a plan for your survivors benefits.
Can I Work After Full Retirement Age
Beneficiaries are free to continue working while taking their Social Security benefits, no matter what age they start taking those benefits. However, working and taking Social Security benefits before reaching full retirement age may affect your benefits.
If you start taking Social Security early but keep working, youre subject to whats called an earnings test. For every $2 you earn over $18,960, you will see $1 withheld in Social Security benefits. And in the year you reach full retirement age, this limit changes to $1 in benefits for every $3 you earn above $50,520 up to the month of your birthday.
Once you reach full retirement age, though, you can keep every dollar of your Social Security benefits, no matter how much income you bring in. Your future benefits will also be adjusted to include the money that the earnings test previously factored out.
Spouses And Social Security
You can claim Social Security benefits based on your spouse’s work record. If claiming spousal benefits provides more, claiming before your FRA on a spouse’s record means you’ll lose even more than claiming on your own recordthe benefit reduction for a spouse is up to 35% while the reduction for claiming your own benefit is up to 30%. For instance, if you’re the spouse of Colleen in the above example and you are the same age, you’d be eligible for only $650 a month at age 6235% less than the $1000 a month you would get at your FRA of 67.
Not married? Read Viewpoints on Fidelity.com: Social Security tips for singles
Your decision to take benefits early could outlive you. If you were to die before your spouse, they would be eligible to receive your monthly amount as a survivor benefitif it’s higher than their own amount. But if you take your benefits early, say at age 62 versus waiting until age 70, your spouse’s survivor Social Security benefit could be up to 30% less for the remainder of their lifetime.
Earn Ssa Work Credits In Some Countries
You may not have enough credits from your work in the United States to qualify for retirement benefits. But, you may be able to count your work credits from another country. The SSA has agreements with 24 countries. If you earned credits in one of those countries, they can help you qualify for U.S. benefits.
If You Were Born In 1959 Your Full Retirement Age Is 66 And 10 Months
You can start your Social Security retirement benefits as early as age 62, but the benefit amount you receive will be less than your full retirement benefit amount.
The chart below provides examples of the percentage of your full retirement benefit amount you and your spouse would receive from age 62 up to your full retirement age.
Recommended Reading: How Do I Change Address On Social Security
Is Social Security In Trouble
Its safe to say that the Social Security system faces some financial challenges. The ratio of current workers-to-retirees is declining, meaning fewer workers are paying into the system for every retiree who is drawing money out of it. In addition, people are living longer than when the program was envisioned in the 1930s, so theyre collecting benefits for more years.
According to Social Security Administration trustees, the retirement programs costs are expected to exceed its income for the first time in 2021. Under current projections, the program should be able to pay full benefits until 2033, when the trust fund will be depleted. After this, the fund’s reserves will be depleted and 76% of scheduled benefits will be able to be paid with continuing tax income.
Given the programs popularity and importance to millions of Americansand the millions of older Americans who have already paid into it for decadesits extremely unlikely that Congress would simply let it fail.
How Long Do I Have To Work To Qualify For Disability
The amount of years worked that is necessary to qualify for disability benefits depends on your age. Social Security quantifies your work history in terms of work credits. Typically, you will have needed to worked 5 of the last 10 years to have enough work credits to quality for Social Security Disability Income . Usually, you need 20 work credits earned in the last 10 years.
You May Like: How Your Social Security Benefit Is Calculated
Can You Still Work While Receiving Social Security
You can continue to work while you receive Social Security benefits. But there is a limit to how much you can earn and still receive full benefits. The earning limit may be adjusted each year.
If you earn above the limit, Social Security will deduct a certain amount of your benefits each year.
Social Security Benefits, Earning Limits and Penalties
|SSA deducts $1 from your benefits for every $3 you earn above the limit|
When Can I Start Collecting Social Security
The minimum age to claim benefits is 62. If you are turning 62 and need the income from Social Security to support yourself, then you can start claiming your benefits now. However, if you have enough other income to keep you going until you are older, then you may want to delay to increase the size of your monthly benefit.
Con: You May Be Reducing The Quality Of Your Retirement Lifestyle
If youre a fit individual with no discernible health issues, youll be permanently crippling your retirement lifestyle by taking your Social Security early. If youre going to live a long life and can instead wait to draw your Social Security, youll have a much higher quality of life. The difference between a payout at 62 and one at 70 can be significant, meaning you might be restricted to local travel or even staying at home instead of enjoying cruises and/or international trips, for example. If you intend on being active during your late 60s and 70s, you might be doing yourself a disservice by drawing your Social Security early.
Do Survivor Benefits Increase After Full Retirement Age
If you are the surviving spouse who is claiming benefits based on your deceased partner’s work record, there is no benefit to waiting until after FRA to claim your benefits. You do not earn delayed retirement credits, so your benefit will not increase.
However, if you are the higher-earning spouse, delaying your claim for benefits until after FRA can result in your widow receiving more monthly income, as your widowed partner will receive the higher of the two monthly benefits you were each receiving.
You May Like: Can I Locate Someone By Their Social Security Number
No More File And Suspend
Note that the claiming strategy called file and suspend, which allowed married couples who have reached their FRA to receive spousal benefits and delayed retirement credits at the same time, ended as of May 1, 2016. However, spouses born before Jan. 2, 1954, who have attained their FRA may still be able to file a restricted application. It allows them to claim spousal benefits while delaying their own benefits up to age 70.
Social Security benefits can be taxable if your combined income is high enough.
Do Seniors Pay Taxes On Social Security Income
The federal government taxes up to 85 percent of social security payments for seniors who earn more than a specific threshold, but never taxes the full benefit. If your combined income exceeds $ 34,000, 85% of your Social Security income may be taxable.
Are Social Security benefits taxed after age 70?
Calculating the exact amount of tax payable on social security benefits can be quite complicated. After the age of 70 there is no increase anymore, so you should claim your benefits even if they will be partially subject to income tax.
Read Also: How Can I Check My Social Security Status
When Is The Best Age For Americans To Claim Social Security
When to claim Social Security retirement benefits is one of the most crucial financial decisions facing older workers. But not everyone makes informed choices. The timing of the claim is key. The earlier a worker files to receive Social Security, the lower the monthly payment for the rest of that workers life. The longer a worker waits, the larger the benefit. Workers can claim as early as 62, but face a permanent reduction of benefits for every year they file before full retirement age of 66 . Even so, nearly half of American workers claim Social Security benefits at 62, and a cumulative 60% claim before full retirement age electing to accept a significant loss of income for the remainder of their lives.
Plain old human psychology can also play a role. Behavioral scientists refer to this as an intertemporal choice problem between receiving a smaller reward now or a larger one later. Eat that ice cream sundae or demur and avoid diabetes? Sell now or wait for the house to appreciate? Cash-in a 401K early or allow it to continue growing? In making these decisions, the allure of immediate gratification can be stronger than future gain. Researchers at Columbia University found that people faced with intertemporal choices often emphasize receiving the reward right away. Apparently, deciding whether to claim Social Security benefits sooner than later is no exception.
How Do I Apply For Benefits
You can apply at a local Social Security office, by phone , or online. Youll need to provide certain information and possibly some documents, such as a birth certificate. Social Security Form SSA-1 has a complete list.
The Social Security Administration says you can apply up to four months before the date you want your benefits to start.
Also Check: How Much Do I Have To Pay Into Social Security
If You Receive Social Security Benefits And Work
The work limit for these earnings are $1,310 a month or $15,720 a year. If you collect Social Security before your full retirement age of 66 or 67, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for ever $2 that you make over that limit.
In the year that you reach your full retirement age, your benefit will be reduced by $1 for ever $3 made above that limit.
Note: For retirees that make high income, the benefits that you receive will be taxed but this is a separate issue from a direct reduction of your benefits.
What Is The Average Monthly Social Security Check
Social Security offers a monthly benefit check to many types of beneficiaries. As of August 2021, the average check is $ 1,437.55, according to the Social Security Administration, but that amount can vary drastically depending on the type of recipient. In fact, retirees tend to earn more than the overall average.
What is the largest monthly Social Security check? The maximum that a person who submits a claim for Social Security retirement benefits in 2021 can receive per month is:
- $ 3,895 for someone filing a return at age 70.
- $ 3,148 for someone presenting at full retirement age .
- $ 2,324 for someone presenting at age 62.
You May Like: Full Social Security Benefit
Full Retirement Age Vs Early Retirement Age
While understanding your full retirement age is a key part of the puzzle, its different from when you may start claiming Social Security benefits. Thats your early retirement age, which is 62 regardless of what year you were born. And while all Americans may start receiving benefits when they turn 62, doing so will decrease the amount of each monthly payment.
Heres a bit of the Social Security Administrations official jargon, which is essential for getting a complete picture of your benefits. Full retirement age is how old you must be to receive your full primary insurance amount , or the base-rate Social Security benefit youre eligible for given your lifetime earnings history.
Getting Help With Determining If You Worked Enough
Do you need help determining if you’ll qualify for Social Security benefits? You should contact a Social Security attorney or advocate. He or she can evaluate your claim and help you start the application process. You can also learn more about your eligibility by filling out a free evaluation form today.
You May Like: How Much Do I Have To Pay Into Social Security
Theres An Annual Social Security Cost
One of the most attractive features of Social Security benefits is that every year the government adjusts the benefit for inflation. Known as a cost-of-living adjustment, or COLA, this inflation protection can help you keep up with rising living expenses during retirement. The Social Security COLA is quite valuable its the equivalent of buying inflation protection on a private annuity, which can cost a pretty penny.
Because the COLA is calculated based on changes in a federal consumer price index, the size of the COLA depends largely on broad inflation levels determined by the government. In 2021, Social Security beneficiaries will see a 1.3% COLA in their monthly Social Security benefits.
The Kiplinger Letter forecast in March that the 2022 COLA would be 3%, which would be the largest increase since 2012 when Social Security benefits ticked up 3.6%.
Heres what COLAs have been in other recent years:
- 2009: 5.8%
- 2021: 1.3%
Check The Social Security Administration’s Math
Your statement includes a record of the earnings on which you’ve paid taxes and an estimate of the benefits you will receive at various retirement ages: 62, 67, and 70. It is always wise for you to check the SSA’s numbers. Don’t be surprised if you uncover an error. Some government-watchers estimate that the SSA makes mistakes on at least 3% of the total official earnings records it keeps.
When you check your record, make sure that the Social Security number noted on your earnings statement is your own, and make sure the earned income amounts listed on the agency’s records mesh with your own records of earnings as listed on your income tax forms or pay stubs.
Also Check: How Much Do I Have To Pay Into Social Security
You Can Choose When You Take Social Security
You have considerable flexibility for when you can begin receiving your benefits.
As the accompanying illustration shows, the age at which full retirement benefits are payable , is determined by your birth year.3
Age for Receiving Full Social Security Retirement Benefit3
|Year of Birth|
|1960 or later||67|
You may begin receiving benefits as early as age 62 though, your benefits will be reduced at a rate of about one-half of 1% for each month you begin taking Social Security before your full retirement age.4
You may choose to delay receiving benefits until after reaching your full retirement age in which case, your benefits are scheduled to increase by 8% annually. This increase under current law will be automatically added each month from the moment you reach full retirement age until you start taking benefits or reach age 70 the age at which these delayed retirement credits stop accruing. Plus, your benefit also will increase by any cost-of-living adjustments applied to benefit payment levels during that time.4
If you plan on continuing to work, you may still receive the full benefit for which you are eligible. Indeed, working beyond full retirement age can increase your benefits. However, your benefits will be reduced if your earnings exceed certain limits. If you work and start receiving benefits before full retirement age, your benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $2 in earnings above the prevailing annual limit .5
Will My Social Security Benefits Be Reduced If I Work
A worker who claims benefits before full retirement age may run into the earnings limit, in which Social Security temporarily withholds $1 in benefits for every $2 in earnings above a certain amount in 2021, the limit is $18,960.
And though a person may need benefits to supplement low earnings, the downside of permanently reduced benefits also exists if you claim early, whether or not you exceed the earnings limit, Ms. Floyd said.
A working widow who collects a survivor benefit could also face the earnings limit. A widow can claim a survivor benefit as young as 60, though her benefit will be reduced by claiming before full retirement age. If she is working and exceeds the earnings limit, part of those reduced benefits will be withheld.
The earnings limit also applies to the spousal benefit claimed by a nonworking spouse if the other spouse is working and both are younger than full retirement age. Social Security withholds benefits on total household earnings that exceed the limit.
Withheld benefits are not lost forever, however. At the beneficiarys full retirement age, Social Security will adjust the monthly benefit upward to account for the withheld benefits. The beneficiary will continue to receive the higher payment even after she recoups the withheld benefits, which could take 12 years.
You May Like: How Can I Check My Social Security Status