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survivor benefits

Interaction of Survivor Benefits with Your Own Benefits

Social Security Survivor Benefits can be a critical lifeline for surviving spouses. The interaction of survivor benefits with your own benefits can be a bit confusing though. Does starting to receive one benefit affect your future amount of the other benefit? How about vice-versa? There’s a lot written about the topic in Social Security’s POMS manual, but it becomes very simple after you study it a bit. The interaction of survivor benefits with your own benefits can be played out in one of two ways: either you take your own benefit first and the survivor benefit later; or vice versa, taking the survivor benefit first followed by your own benefit. We’ll look at each of these methods and review the interaction of survivor benefits with your own benefits. Note: in our examples, we are assuming that the survivor benefit has been calculated correctly per the late spouse’s circumstances. See How […]

8 Questions: Social Security Survivor Benefits

In this previous article we addressed some of the most common questions about Social Security Spousal Benefits. Keeping with the theme of developing FAQ sheets, today I’ll go through some of the most common questions about Social Security Survivor Benefits. Survivor Benefits are available when a Social Security recipient passes away and leaves surviving dependents – spouse, children, and other dependent family members.

Social Security and the Non-Citizen Spouse

With our increasingly global society today, many married couples are made up of a US citizen and a non-citizen.  In some cases, the non-citizen spouse has never been covered by the US Social Security system – he or she may have been covered by another system in his or her home country.  In other cases, the non-citizen spouse may have worked in a Social Security-covered job while living in the US, and so may have generated a Social Security earnings record of his or her own. At any rate, it is important to know that your lawful spouse who is a non-citizen may be eligible for Social Security benefits based on your earnings. As long as other qualifications are met (length of marriage, age of the spouse, and your filing status with Social Security), your non-citizen spouse may qualify for Spousal Benefits based upon your record.  By the same token, your […]

Survivor Benefits Do Not Affect Your Own Benefits (and vice versa)

I’ve had a few questions about this topic over the past several weeks, so I thought I’d run through a few examples and explain it. When you have access to a Social Security Survivor Benefit and a Social Security retirement benefit, you can maximize your lifetime benefits by coordinating the two and planning out your strategy for taking each benefit. As we’ve covered in other articles, it often is best to delay receiving your own benefit as long as possible.  This is because you will receive Delayed Retirement Credits (DRCs) for every month after you’ve reached your Full Retirement Age (FRA, which is age 66 if you were born between 1943 and 1954, and increasing gradually up to age 67 if you were born in 1955 or later).  This DRC amounts to 8% per year, or 2/3% per month. In addition, it can be beneficial to delay receiving a Survivor […]

Earnings Tests Apply to Spousal and Survivor Social Security Benefits As Well

If you’re receiving Spousal or Survivor Social Security benefits and you’re under Full Retirement Age, you need to know that any earnings that you have can have an impact on the benefits that you’re receiving.  These are the same limits that apply to regular retirement Social Security benefits, and they apply in the same manner. For 2013, if you will not reach Full Retirement Age during this calendar year, the earnings limit is $15,120, or $1,260 per month.  For every $2 over that limit that you earn for the year, your Social Security benefit will be reduced by $1.  For example, if you earned $20,000 for the year, you are over the limit by $4,880, and you’ll lose $2,440 of your benefit. If you will reach Full Retirement Age in 2013, the earnings limit is $40,080, or $3,340 per month – and the treatment is different.  In this case, for […]

How is the Social Security Survivor Benefit Calculated?

This is one of those very complicated and difficult to understand areas of the Social Security universe, but it’s very important to know what amount of benefits a surviving spouse will be eligible for upon the passing of his or her spouse. There are different rules that apply, depending upon whether or not the late spouse was already receiving benefits based on his or her own record, as well as the age of the surviving spouse when he or she begins receiving survivor benefits. We’ll look at the easy one first: when the late or decedent spouse was not already receiving benefits based on his or her own record. When The Decedent Spouse Was Not Receiving Benefits In the case where the late spouse had not already begun to receive benefits based upon his or her own record, there are three factors that you need to take into account:  the […]

Wealth Defense: When Should You Start Social Security Benefits?

The foregoing is a re-post of an article that I wrote which was included in The Motley Fool’s Rule Your Retirement newsletter.  Enjoy! Want to double a chunk of your retirement income? It’s easy — just delay taking Social Security by about six years! OK, so it’s not really that simple. The time to apply for Social Security benefits is different for each individual; there is no magical “best age” for everyone. Thus, to maximize your benefit, it’s important to understand the consequences of choosing to apply at different ages. It all starts with the most important age: your full retirement age, or FRA (see table below). If you receive your Social Security retirement benefit before your FRA, the benefit will be reduced. The biggest reduction is at age 62, the earliest you can begin receiving benefits (except for widows and widowers, who can begin survivors’ benefits at 60). Year […]

Important Factors When Planning Social Security for Couples

Planning for Social Security benefits for a couple can be complicated.  There are many factors to consider, including the amount of benefits each member of the couple is entitled to at various ages, as well as the relative ages of the spouses to one another.  Other factors include whether or not one member of the couple (or both) will earn wages past age 62, as well as longevity: the potential of the couple (at least one member) living past normal life expectancy. Longevity is one of the most important factors to consider – and for a couple this isn’t as straightforward as it is for one person.  According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ Annuity 2000 table, a couple who are both age 50 stand a 50% chance of one member living to at least 91 years of age.  For another example, if the husband is 62 and the […]

How Survivor Benefits are Treated

Image by mayakamina via Flickr Social Security Survivor Benefits are much different from Spousal Benefits in several ways.  In fact, there’s very little to compare between the two.  Here are the primary things that you need to know about Survivor Benefits: Survivor Benefits can be claimed as early as age 60.  Of course, as with all early claims for benefits, the amount will be reduced if you claim earlier than Full Retirement Age (FRA). At age 60 your Survivor Benefit would be reduced to 71.5% of your late spouse’s benefit amount (or PIA if he or she wasn’t at FRA). Survivor Benefits are based upon 100% of the amount of benefit (at your FRA) that the deceased spouse was or should be receiving, whereas Spousal Benefits are based upon the PIA, and then only at a 50% maximum rate. Survivor Benefits can also be applied for separately from your own […]

A File and Suspend Review

Note: with the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 into law, File & Suspend and Restricted Application have been effectively eliminated for anyone born in 1954 or later. If born before 1954 there are some options still available, but these are limited as well. Please see the article The Death of File & Suspend and Restricted Application for more details. I get a lot (a LOT) of questions about the File and Suspend tactic for Social Security benefits, so I thought some more review would help.  For the uninitiated, File and Suspend is a tactic that married couples can use to help maximize their total Social Security benefits.  In this post I’ll try to cover some of the more common questions. File and Suspend works like this: One of the two in the couple can file an application for Social Security benefits and then immediately suspend in order […]

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