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Social Security Survivor Benefits
Old 06-11-2018, 08:46 PM   #1
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Social Security Survivor Benefits

I want to double check my understanding of Survivor Benefits.

You can start 71.5% of your Survivor Benefits as early as age 60, 81% at 62, 95.3% at age 65, and the increases stop at 100% at age 66.

As I understand it, this does not affect your personal benefits. If you wait until age 70 to start your personal benefits you will still get 132% of your benefit if you were born before 1954 and 124% if you were born after 1960.

If you start your own benefits first, age 62 or later, the amount of your survivor benefits do not continue to increase after you turn 66.

So, do I understand this correctly? If a widow and her late husband had relatively similar incomes, could she start 81% his survivor benefits at age 62, then switch to 132% of her benefits at age 70? (Assumes she was born before 1954)

Assuming that both have a Full Retirement Benefit level of $25,000 at age 66; she would start getting $20,250 at age 62, then, at age 70, the survivor benefits stop and she starts getting $33,000 of her own benefits. Almost seems too good to be true! (everything inflation adjusted)

I know they recently changed the rules for spousal benefits, but as I understood it, survivor benefits were not changed!
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Old 06-11-2018, 09:35 PM   #2
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I think that you have it all correct, but that is just from memory. I went in to the SS office and they gave me a printout of what I would get for each month after age 60 on the late DW's account and what I would get on my account. DW's account was somewhat less than 2/3 mine. I am currently receiving benefits on DW's account and will switch to my account at 70.
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Old 06-11-2018, 09:52 PM   #3
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Thanks, nice to know that others have the same concept of how this works for Widow(er)s.

A lot of discussions are started here on the “break even” concept when you wait to start your benefits. Getting $0 for a few years so that you get more after that does raise a lot of questions; but getting 70% or 80% before you start getting 130% is a lot different than 0% while you wait.
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Old 06-12-2018, 04:35 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Sandy & Shirley View Post
Getting $0 for a few years so that you get more after that does raise a lot of questions; but getting 70% or 80% before you start getting 130% is a lot different than 0% while you wait.
I'm not sure what questions delaying raises in general. But if you become widowed, you certainly need to rethink your planned social security claiming strategy.

Remember, there are rules that apply if you remarry. And the amount of the survivors benefit may be affected by when the deceased started to collect their benefit.

In general, it's important for a married couple to coordinate their benefits with both spousal and eventual survivor benefits in mind.

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Old 06-12-2018, 07:29 AM   #5
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Thanks for the extra link. In our case Shirl is a widow and we have been together for a few years now, but we are not married. She plans to retire and start her survivor benefits at 61, then start her own at 70. Here is the table I put together to plan her retirement:

AgeSurvivorpre 1954post 1960

The earlier taxation of Social Security marriage penalty is another reason we are not married. A single person starts paying taxes at the 50% taxability level with an income basis of $25,000 and 85% at $34,000. A married couple starts the 50% taxability level at only $32,000 (two singles combined is $50,000) and 85% at $44,000.

FYI the taxability basis if half your SSB plus your other income. When the married couple reaches the $50,000 basis level, $11,100 of there combined SSB are taxable income while taxable SSB remains ZERO for the domestic couple if they balanced their basis levels at $25,000 each! For the next $14,000 the married couple is at the 85% taxability level while the domestic couple is at the 50% level.

Taxability stops when 85% of your SSB has been taxed in both cases, the problem is that the married couple reaches that point at a lower income level.

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