How would Social Security benefits work when my husband dies?


Q. My husband is 79 and I am 62. Should he pass away, can I claim survivor benefits and then switch to my benefits at my full retirement age or will my amount be increased?
— Wife

A. We hope your husband is around for a long time.

Still, you’re smart to want to understand your benefits today.

A widow or widower can begin receiving survivor benefits as early as age 60, or age 50 if disabled, or if you have a child under age 16, said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.

She said the benefit amount will depend on the payment being received by the deceased at the time of death or the benefit they would have been entitled to receive based on their work record.

Claiming the benefit as early as age 60 will result in a payment reduction of almost 30%, Mott said, while at age 62, the decrease is 25%.

“For those who have earned their own Social Security credits, you may start taking the survivor benefit when eligible and then switch to your own record at full retirement age or up to age 70 with no reduction in your benefit,” Mott said.

If your budget and cash flow allow, holding off until age 70 will allow your future payment to grow by 8% per year, she said.

“Regardless, when you switch from a survivor benefit to your own record, the two benefits will not be added together, rather the larger of the two amounts will become the ongoing payment,” she said.

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This story was originally published on March 20, 2020. presents certain general financial planning principles and advice, but should never be viewed as a substitute for obtaining advice from a personal professional advisor who understands your unique individual circumstances.