Coordinating the Survivor Benefit With Your Own Benefit

If you’re a widow or widower and you are eligible for Social Security Survivor’s Benefits based on your late spouse’s record, you have some decisions to make that could affect your overall benefits.

Timing is Everything

Timing the receipt of benefits is, as with all Social Security benefits, the primary factor that you can control.  If you have worked over your lifetime and you have a retirement benefit based upon your own record coming to you, it becomes even more important how you time receipt of your own benefit versus the Survivor’s Benefit.

If your own benefit will be greater than the Survivor Benefit, it could be useful beneficial to you in the long run to take the Survivor Benefit as early as possible (as early as age 60) even though it will be reduced.  You could then continue receiving this reduced benefit for several years to your FRA and then switch over to your own benefit, which will be higher and unreduced at that point.

On the other hand, if the Survivor Benefit would be higher than your own benefit, you could take your own benefit early (reduced, of course) and then switch over to the Survivor Benefit later, at FRA.

By using one of these methods you are able to receive *some* benefit earlier-on in your life, and then switch over to the higher benefit later.  Just keep in mind that earnings limits and other reductions will apply.  Also, these same options are available for ex-spouse widows and widowers as well, as long as you haven’t remarried.

About the author

Jim Blankenship, CFP®, EA

Jim Blankenship is the founder and principal of Blankenship Financial Planning, Ltd., a financial planning firm providing hourly, as-needed financial planning and advice. A financial services professional for over 25 years, Jim is a CFP professional and has earned the Enrolled Agent designation, a designation that qualifies him as enrolled to practice before the IRS. Jim is also a NAPFA-registered financial advisor, which designates him as a Fee-Only Financial Advisor.

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