Special Birthdays for Social Security
If you are a widow or widower, you can draw Social Security from your deceased spouse or former spouse. At 60 the payments will be reduced compared with what you would receive at your full retirement age (FRA), and there are limits on the income you can earn at your work. If you have your own Social Security work record, taking a widow’s payment early can be part of an early retirement strategy.
Your first eligibility for Social Security retirement income is at age 62. The payment amount will be reduced compared with what you would earn at your full retirement age and there are limits on your earned income. Claiming benefits can make sense if you need the income and it can be part of an early retirement strategy. Note that while you are under full retirement age, you might experience a reduction in your Social Security payment depending on your earned income.
Everyone turning 65 should consider contacting the Social Security Administration to ask about signing up for Medicare. You must get this right—you can be penalized for filing for Medicare too late or too early. Call or visit Social Security 2 or 3 months before your birth month. (See our information on Understanding Medicare or attend one of our workshops to learn more about Medicare.)
For many, this is your Social Security “full retirement age.” You can continue to work and draw Social Security at the same time, with no Social Security penalty, starting with your birthday month. In the months before your birthday month, you still have earned income limits. You might also take spouse-only payments and hold your own payments in reserve. It’s called the “Restricted Application” strategy.
Your Social Security benefits will typically not grow higher if you wait past 70 to claim your benefit. Take your Social Security this year if you haven’t already. And if you were getting spouse-only payments, it’s time to possibly switch to your own Social Security benefit.
As always, be sure to check with the Social Security Administration for details if any of these options affect you.
Can I claim survivor benefits based on my ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits?
If your divorced spouse has passed away, you may be eligible to collect survivor benefits as a widow / widower if:
• You are over the age of 60.
• The marriage lasted more than 10 years.
• You are not now remarried.
• You have remarried, but after the age of 60
If you remarried before the age of 60, and are still married, you cannot collect survivor benefits from a former spouse.
If you remarried before the age of 60 but that marriage has now ended, you may collect survivor benefits from a deceased ex-spouse.
Can I claim retirement benefits based on my ex-spouse’s Social Security benefits?
Depending on the length of your marriage and whether you have remarried, you may be able to collect benefits based on your divorced spouse’s Social Security benefits. Collecting these benefits has no effect on your former spouse’s benefits.
In order to collect benefits from a divorced spouse:
• You and your ex-spouse must both be over the age of 62.
• Your marriage must have lasted 10 years or more.
• You must have not remarried.
If your divorced spouse has not yet applied for benefits, you can still receive benefits based on his or her record if you have been divorced for more than two years.
How will my spouse’s survivor benefits work?
Important Note: There are a few exceptions where survivor benefits can begin under age 60, including:
• A surviving spouse caring for children under the age of 18 or who has children who are 18-19 years old who are full-time students up to grade 12, subject to family maximums.
• A surviving spouse caring for disabled children 18 years of age or older.
Assuming a full retirement age of 66 and a deceased spouse benefit of $24,000:
Assuming a full retirement age of 67 and a deceased spouse benefit of $24,000″
When can my spouse begin collecting a spousal benefit?
For your spouse to be eligible for Social Security spousal benefits, you must have applied for Social Security benefits and your spouse must be at least 62. If your spouse begins to collect spousal benefits before he or she has reached full retirement age, he or she will not be eligible for the maximum 50% spousal benefit.
How do I calculate my spouse’s benefit?
When your spouse applies for Social Security benefits, he or she will be eligible for the higher of two different amounts:
His or her own benefit or up to 50% of your benefit assuming you have applied for Social Security benefits.
If your spouse’s Social Security is based on his or her own work history, and the benefit is more than 50% of yours, your spouse will not be eligible for a spousal benefit.
Will I get a cost-of-living adjustment every year?
If there is no increase, there can be no COLA. If there is a percentage decrease in that indicator there is no subsequent reduction in Social Security benefits.
Over the last 10 years, there have been eight cost of living adjustments.
Are my Social Security benefits taxable?
Maybe, depending on the amount of other income you received in the year. If you are single, determine whether your benefits are taxable, by adding the following items together:
ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME
+ NONTAXABLE INTEREST
+ ½ YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
If that value is: Between $25,000 and $34,000, up to 50% of your Social Security benefit is taxable.
Above $34,000, up to 85% of your Social Security benefit is taxable.
If you are married and filing a joint tax return, to determine whether your benefits are taxable, by adding the following items together:
ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME
+ NONTAXABLE INTEREST
+ ½ OF YOUR SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
+ ½ OF YOUR SPOUSE’S SOCIAL SECURITY BENEFITS
If that value is: Between $32,000 and $44,000, up to 50% of you and your spouse’s Social Security benefit is taxable.
Above $44,000, up to 85% of you and your spouse’s Social Security benefit is taxable.
What happens if I take my Social Security benefits while I am still working?
It depends on your age. If you are at or above your full retirement age, working will not reduce your Social Security benefit. If you are under your full retirement age, $1 of benefits is reduced for every $2 of wages you earn above $15,120. In the year in which you reach your full retirement age, from January 1st up until your birthday, $1 of your benefit is reduced for every $3 you earn above $40,080.
These limits apply to your wages only and do not count withdrawals from retirement accounts, dividends, interest, or other unearned income. The reduction also only applies to your own wages – it does not count your spouse’s wages. If you have reached your full retirement age, but your spouse has not, the earnings limit will not apply to your benefits.
What happens if I delay taking my Social Security benefits until after I reach full retirement age?
From your full retirement age until you reach age 70, for every year you delay taking your Social Security benefits, your benefits will increase by 8%. After age 70, while it is possible to delay taking your benefits, the 8% increase does not continue. This means there is no incentive to delay taking benefits after age 70.
Can I start taking my Social Security retirement benefits before I reach my full retirement age?
Early Social Security Benefits (assuming a full retirement age of 66 and a $24,000 annual benefit):
Early Social Security Benefits (assuming a full retirement age of 67 and a $24,000 annual benefit):