I have saved some questions that are from widows or from husbands or wives wondering about future widow benefits. Here are some of them.
Question: I want to make sure my wife gets the highest possible widow benefits after I leave. How do I do it?
ONE: If this is your only goal in terms of claiming your own social benefits, then the answer is actually quite simple: Wait as long as possible to sign up for your retirement benefits.
While you are alive, any spouse benefits that your wife should have are based on your full retirement age. But once you are gone, her widow’s rate will be based on the benefit rate you received at the time of your death. So, for example, if you waited up to 70 years to start your social security benefits, which means you would receive about 130% of your FRA benefit, your wife would also receive that rate of 130% in the form of widow benefits (provided she is over ) her OFF when you die).
Q: I’m 72. My husband is 82. I get my own social security. That’s $ 2,850 a month. And he gets his own advantage. It’s $ 3,280. When he dies, will I then get my own benefit and his? Or how does it work?
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ONE: The law says that when you have to have two social benefits, you do not get them both. You only get the one who pays the highest rate. Or to be more precise, you generally always get your own benefit first. And then it is supplemented with an amount to take your total benefits up to what you may have for good on your husband’s journal.
So if he dies first, you’ll keep getting your $ 2,850. And then you get $ 430 in widow benefits to bring you up to his $ 3,280 rate.
Q: I’m 70 years old and I work part time. But through our 40-year marriage, I was a homemaker most of the time. My husband, who was a doctor, died four years ago. I get widow benefits and not my own. But every year I get a letter telling me that my own pension benefit has increased, but my check never increases. Can you explain this?
ONE: As I explained in the previous answer, I am sure that according to the books of the Social Security Administration, you will receive your own small social security benefit, which is supplemented by higher widow benefits. So when you work, your own benefit gradually increases every year. But it probably never reaches the point where it exceeds your widow’s rate, and therefore nothing changes.
Let me explain this further with an example. Let’s say your own retirement benefit is $ 800 per month. month and that your widow’s benefit is $ 3,400 per month. month. So in SSA’s books, you get your own $ 800, and you get $ 2,600 in widow benefits to take you up to his $ 3,400 level.
And now let’s say that your earnings increase your own retirement benefit to $ 830 per month. month. On paper, this means that your widow’s interest rate drops to $ 2,570 because you still have to pay $ 3,400 in total per month.
Q: My husband and I are both in our late 70’s. We were both realtors most of our lives. I’m still in the business. Due to ill health, my husband is not. My social security is $ 2,990. He gets $ 2,540. If he dies, what do I get in widowhood?
ONE: I’m sorry, but you do not get anything – other than the small one-time death benefit of $ 255. To repeat what I pointed out in previous answers, when you potentially have two benefits, you only get the one that pays the highest rate. Your own advantage is more than the advantage of your potential widow. So that’s all you get.
On the other hand, if you were to die first, he would receive $ 450 in widower benefits to take his $ 2,540 retirement rate up to your $ 2,990 level.
Q: My husband and I are in our late 60’s. I am a retired teacher. I have never paid for social security; my teacher’s pension is about $ 4,000 a month. My husband’s job paid into Social Security, and he gets $ 3,100 in retirement benefits. I just learned that when he dies, I will not get a penny in widow benefit because of something called the public pension set-off. I think that’s completely unfair!
ONE: It really is not unfair at all. Consider the woman who asked the previous question. She will never receive any widow benefits because her own social security benefit exceeds the rate of her potential widow. The Public Pension Compensation Act simply states that your teacher’s pension will be treated like a social security pension, and it will offset any widow benefits you may receive from social security.
And in fact, that GPO law makes you a deal. It says that only two-thirds of your teacher’s pension will be used to offset your widow’s benefits. In your case, that means only $ 2,640 of your $ 4,000 pension will be counted. So if your husband dies, you will still receive $ 460 in widow benefits ($ 3,100- $ 2,640 = $ 460). If you ask me, it’s unfair that you get $ 460 in widowhood, and the woman who gets a social security pension and not a teacher’s pension will not get a penny!
Q: My wife and I both took our Social Security as a 62 year old. We are now in the 80s. My advantage is much higher than hers. If I die first, does she start getting what I get?
ONE: In your situation, she will actually get a little bit more. Because you received benefits when you were 62, this means that you receive a reduced pension benefit that corresponds to 75% of your full retirement age rate. But there is a law that says that a woman your wife’s age is guaranteed a widow’s rate of 82% of your full rate. So she gets the extra 7% added to her widow’s benefits when you die.
If you have a question about social security, Tom Margenau has a book with all the answers. It’s called “Social Security: Simple and Smart.” You can find the book on creators.com/books. Or look for it on Amazon or other bookstores. To find out more about him and to read previous columns and see features from other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.