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Russell Gloor

Ask Rusty – What are the benefits of my wife while I am alive and as my widow?

Dear Rusty: I’ll be 70 in January and my wife will be 65 in February, and then we’ll both go on Medicare. I am currently working and my estimated Social Security benefit will be about $2,900. My wife was a stay at home mom and therefore only has minimal Social Security benefits. At age 65, she’s eligible for $870 and at full retirement age, she’s eligible for $990. A few questions: If she’s getting benefits at age 65, what’s her total partner benefit? If she waited until her full retirement age, what would the amount be? What would be even more concerning, what would her survivor benefit be, given the same criteria listed above. Signed: planning ahead

Best planning ahead: Based on the Social Security amounts in your email, your wife will be eligible for a partner’s benefit while you’re both alive. Her husband’s benefit when she claims will consist of her own Social Security retirement benefit plus a partner’s allowance to bring her payment up to her entitlement to spousal support. Spouse benefits are calculated based on the full retirement age (FRA) benefit amounts, so if your 70-year benefit is “about $2900”, your FRA (age 66) benefit amount (known as your “primary insurance amount) should be “) are about $2,225. Your wife’s base salary increase would be the difference between her FRA amount and 50% of your FRA amount, so her total benefit, if taken at her full retirement age, would be about $1,112 (her $990 plus $ 122). But at age 65, both her own benefit and her partner’s allowance would be reduced. At age 65, your wife’s total benefit would be about $963 (her own $870 plus a reduced partner’s allowance of about $93).

As for your wife’s survivor benefit, since your widow, if she reached her full retirement age (66 years and 8 months), would receive upon your death the same amount as you received when you died – the $2,900 you receive by to claim at age 70. Your wife’s survivor benefit, as your widow replaces the smaller partner amount she received while you were both alive. Since your wife already receives a partner’s benefit from you, your wife will automatically receive her survivor’s benefit at that time if she has reached her FRA when you die. If she hasn’t reached her FRA when you pass, the partner portion of her benefit will stop, but she can apply for a reduced survivor benefit early. In that case, her early survivor benefit is actuarially reduced by 0.396% for each month before her FRA is applied for. If you died in the month your wife turns 65, her early survivor benefit would be about $2668.

One final thought on Medicare: If you continue to work and have “deserving” health care coverage from your employer, you can defer enrollment for Medicare Part B (outpatient services coverage), avoiding the Part B premium until you have stops working. If your wife is covered by your “meritorious” employer health plan, she can also defer enrollment in Medicare Part B until that coverage ends (“meritorious” is a group plan with at least 20 participants). However, enrolling in Medicare Part A (inpatient hospitalization coverage), which has no premium, is required to collect Social Security after age 65.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal or financial guidance. It reflects the views and interpretations of AMAC Foundation staff, trained and accredited by the National Social Security Association (NSSA). NSSA and the AMAC Foundation and its personnel are not affiliated with or endorsed by the Social Security Administration or any other government agency. To ask a question, visit our website ( or email [email protected]

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